The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005: Still Stalled in the U.S. Senate

This week, the American Diabetes Association strenuously urged the United States Senate to lift restrictions on stem cell research, and to pass the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which would shift the government’s involvement in the debates about the issue of stem cell research into high gear. The introduction of the bill was expected to provide the legal mechanism required to utilize the progress science has made in stem cell research and to fund further research into the science of the advancement of embryonic stem cell research, but the bill has been stalled in the Senate for nearly a year.

This piece of legislation (H.R. 810/S.471) garnered strong bipartisan support in the Senate when it was first introduced last year. Polls also reported incredibly high popular opinion. Echoing concerns about the U.S. government’s support for diabetes research expressed a year earlier by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the American Diabetes Association would now like to know why the bill is held up, and just when it can be expected to be passed.

Diabetes is a sometimes debilitating, and potentially deadly disease. At best it is a disease that affects the quality of life of the person afflicted. Diabetes affects the health of roughly 20.8 million adults and children in the United States, which makes up a staggering 7% of the population. Approximately one third of people with diabetes, however, are unaware that they have the disease, leaving them vulnerable to unforeseen health risks and eliminating their ability to control the disease early on.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to produce insulin, or is unable to use it effectively. Insulin is a natural hormone produced in the pancreas that converts sugar into energy. Without the insulin required to enable this process, unconverted sugars can reach dangerously high levels in the bloodstream.

Diabetes can cause a host of problems for the sufferers of the disease, including heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure. Problems with the legs and feet are common as well, and in extreme cases can lead to the amputation of a foot or leg. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

So with such a high prevalence of morbidity and mortality associated with the disease, it is not surprising that the American Diabetes Association is calling on the U.S. Senate to stop dragging its feet and put the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 up to be passed. The fear of all things Stem Cell related and the controversy the issue tends to inflame seems to have stunted the Senate’s willingness to engage in the firestorm.

As far back as July 2004, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation called upon the United States government to get into the issue, noting that the slowness of the rate of the research advancements was hindering viable progress in the fight against diabetes. According to the JDRA, the National Institute of Health (NIH) was “doing its best to accelerate progress in the field of embryonic stem cells” but that “any success would remain minimal so long as the current Administration policy severely limits federal funding for stem cell research.” (http://www.jdrf.org)

So now, nearly one year after the bill that was written to address the concerns of the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 is still stalled in the Senate. If the overwhelming majority of their constituents in support of the bill join senators on both sides of the partisan fence, it would seem that it is well past time for the fear of the stem cell hot potato to give way to reason and progress.

If you would like to join the American Diabetes Association in it’s fight for better research into a cure for the disease, write to your senators, both of them, and insist that they pull this bill out of the drawer and finally vote to pass the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005.

References:
http://www.diabetes.org/about-diabetes.jsp
http://www.cdc.gov/Diabetes/faq/basics.htm
http://www.jdrf.org/index.cfm?page_id=101199
http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060516/dctu036.html?.v=51

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