The Miracle of Stem Cells: The Future of Treatment in the U.S.

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Two Grand Valley residents say they got amazing results after traveling overseas to receive stem cell therapy. So what does the future hold for stem cell research and treatment in the U.S.? 11 News spoke to state and national leaders to find out.

Rusty Leech, a man who has been confined to a wheelchair for ten years is able to get up and walk. Jordanne Menzies, who hasn't been able to move anything below her neck for five years, can now move muscles in her arms. Both say with the hope foreign stem cell treatments have given them, it's time for the U.S. to move forward with stem cell research.

"For the world to be able to utilize these cells to help so many people, we have to investigate it," said Leech. "We have to do as much work as we can because there's going to be great things that come from stem cells."

"The stem cells, they're not hurting anything," said Menzies. "It's just making people better and I just wish the U.S. would realize that."

Some lawmakers say they feel the same way.

"We've lost our edge on the research," said U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, (D) Colorado. "We can get that back, but we need to do it now."

Representative DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, says the biggest obstacle is an executive order signed by President Bush, banning the spending of federal dollars on any new types of embryonic stem cell research. It's a move that has left leaders divided.

In a statement to 11 News, U.S. Senator Wanye Allard, (R) Colorado, said "I can not and will not support legislation that would drive abortion. I will not oppose private industry from doing embryonic stem cell research, but it would be very irresponsible to use federal taxpayer dollars to fund such a contentious issue."

Other leaders say stem cell research has nothing to do with abortion.

"We would only use embryos that were created for in vitro fertilization techniques that would be slated to be thrown away as medical waste," said DeGette.

But that it has everything to do with giving hope to all Americans.

"Stem cell research really holds promise for curing diseases that affect over a hundred and ten million Americans," said DeGette.

For that reason, DeGette says she and other leaders are fighting for the country to move forward. Twice she carried a bill through Congress that would extend federal funding of stem cell research, and twice the president has vetoed it. Now, she says she's working on a bill that would expand the types of research the government could fund and create an oversight committee to make sure that funding was being used for ethical research.

"I don't know if we'll try to pass it this year, because President Bush has made his view pretty clear," said DeGette. "But there's a strong majority in Congress and a strong national consensus. I think when we have a new president, we will be able to pass this."

Some state lawmakers say while the federal government is forced to wait, they are taking steps to help Colorado move forward with it's own research programs.

State Represenative Dianne Primavera, (D) Broomfield, recently carried a bill through the state legislature that would create a Colorado Stem Cells Cure Fund.

"I think it really offers incredible hope to thousands of Coloradans and millions of people battling through serious illness worldwide," said Primavera.

That money would be used to give new mothers the chance to donate stem cells found in umbilical cord blood after birth to a public blood bank. Primavera says at this point only two hospitals in the state have programs like these, and that all Colorado women should have the opportunity to donate if they so choose.

"It's just a really ethical way to move stem cell research along," said Primavera.

While it may still take decades before stem cell treatments become available in the U.S., both state and national leaders say their efforts now are just the beginning of what Americans will see in the very near future.


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