An Open Letter To Senator Orrin Hatch from 126 Stem Cell Scientists
This landmark letter was signed by 126 stem cell scientists at the International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting in San Francisco. (Download PDF)
Dear Senator Hatch,
We are a group of U.S. and international scientists who thank you for your leadership in supporting stem cell research. Stem Cell therapy holds the promise of cures for diseases which afflict up to half of all Americans: spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, heart failure and diabetes, to name a few. What is new is the ability to produce billions of pluripotent stem cells in the laboratory, and direct them to replace damaged cells in tissues that do not have their own supply, such as the spinal cord, the brain and the heart.
Adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood or bone marrow cannot do the job because they are not pluripotent, they do not develop into all the cell types, such as spinal cord and brain. Scientists and physicians have sought solutions to this problem for decades without success.
Because of genetic variations among humans, many more lines of embryonic stem cells are needed to solve the obstacles to stem cell therapy. Human eggs have the capacity to give rise to three types of pluripotent stem cells, all essential to developing stem cell therapies; (1) embryonic stem cells, (2) nuclear transplant stem cells, and (3) parthenote stem cells.
Nuclear transplant stem cells are necessary for multiple reasons: (1) to serve as therapeutic reagents genetically identical to the patient in need, (2) to provide a source of cells as laboratory models for diseases, and (3) to reveal the mechanisms by which human eggs can reprogram genes. Importantly, this research could lead to new approaches for reprogramming adult stem cells, making them pluripotent, and potentially eliminating the need for human eggs. Legislation should include stipulations that nuclear transplanted eggs not be transferred to a uterus, to guarantee that embryonic development would not result from nuclear transplant stem cells.
Parthenote stem cells arise from unfertilized eggs activated with their own genetic information. Less understood at this time, parthenote stem cells may prove to be as versatile as embryonic stem cells, and may be therapeutically valuable for the egg donor, but parthenote stem cells cannot replace the role of nuclear transplant stem cells, describe above.
The U.S. should be leading pluripotent stem cell research and medicine, and setting ethical standards not only for the research as it goes forward, but for global distribution of healthcare advances as they develop. Please pass legislation that supports all forms of pluripotent stem cell research: embryonic stem cells, nuclear transplant stem cells and parthenote stem cells. Those suffering from incurable diseases all over the world deserve our best efforts now.