The New Mexico State Senate again passed legislation (SB23) I introduced that would permit embryonic stem cell research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. Using those embryos in research that otherwise would be discarded could help cure heartbreaking diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and many other diseases and spinal cord injuries. We need to allow our doctors to engage in this kind of work in order to contribute to the great progress and promise that the research holds.
There is great hope for the more than 128 million Americans who suffer from the crippling burdens of degenerative and acute diseases, of which several thousand reside in New Mexico. The bill prohibits any type of cloning and the creation of an embryo with the sole intent of using it in research. All research must be conducted in accordance with strict guidelines and policies promulgated by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science. This bill also enforces penalties of law if these standards and guidelines are abused or not followed.
This issue is very personal to me and my family. For the past nine years my wife and I have provided care for my mother-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer’s. This devastating disease has slowly destroyed her ability to speak, walk, and eat. The effect this has had on her and our family has been heartbreaking. My bill would advance biological knowledge and research in life sciences and increase New Mexico’s potential contributions to medical science in finding cures for these debilitating diseases.
Can you imagine Cody Unser’s personal story? (Cody is the daughter of Al Unser Jr. from the famous Unser racing family). To be 13 years old, playing basketball with friends one day, and waking up the next day permanently paralyzed with what proves to be a crippling and incurable disease of the spinal cord, Transverse Myelitis. What if she were your daughter? Your sister? Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to give her hope and to one day see her walk again?
Fertility clinics have been in operation for over 25 years and have helped thousands of couples have children that would otherwise be unable to. The process is widely accepted and embraced by America. However, this process requires that numerous embryos be produced to increase the chance of pregnancy. According to Dr. Lee Caperton, a fertility specialist that runs the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Albuquerque, approximately fifty percent of embryos created are not capable of producing a pregnancy, but could be used for scientific research. Currently New Mexico couples participating in in-vitro fertilization do not have the ability to donate their unusable embryos to science to help others, but they do have the ability to destroy them.
My bill would offer them a better choice. It only permits biomedical research on those embryos produced by in-vitro fertilization clinics that are targeted for disposal by couples who could, with passage of this bill, opt instead to donate them to science for research. It’s important to understand the differences between embryonic stem cell research and adult stem cell research. Numerous scientific studies, including a NM Dept of Health study completed in November, 2007, state that embryos have the greatest potential to develop into a large number of tissue types, basically having the potential to create any body cell, a term called pluripotent – while adult stem cells are much more limited and cannot reproduce in the same manner. Other peer review scientific studies show that there are numerous breakthroughs occurring with embryonic stem cell research in animals. I want to address the public’s opinion on this issue.
Numerous polls have been conducted over the past 3-4 years, as embryonic stem cell research has become an issue of both advancing medical science and religious debate. However, these polls show that Americans, 2-1, agree that embryos slated to be discarded at fertility clinics should be used to find therapies and cures, should a couple so choose to donate unused embryos to science. A recent poll conducted by KRQE, Channel 13, reflected that a majority of those polled agree with SB 23. This legislation offers researchers incentives to work and spend in New Mexico and, if stem cell research is able to realize all of its potential benefits, it would bring prolific economic benefits.
Our laboratories and technology-based industries are the life-blood of our economy and the hope for continued economic growth in years to come.
The strong focus this bill would create on the life sciences would not only build our presence in America but bring about enormous economic benefits for our state and residents. Public investment in embryonic stem cell research is about new cures, first and foremost, but is also about keeping New Mexico competitive in the intellectual marketplace. It's about world class science, world class careers, and world class cures for what are now incurable diseases. Studies have also examined the potential benefits once effective stem cell therapies are discovered and implemented. This would save the state of New Mexico considerable money in health care costs – a powerful impact on the economy since health care costs are rising at three times the rate of inflation and are one of the factors driving inflation.
Investment in scientific research that can improve the human condition and alleviate suffering is a noble and appropriate responsibility of government. By investing in stem cell research, New Mexico has the opportunity to affirm its scientific legacy and to participate as a full partner in this worldwide work that has such promise to improve the quality of life for so many and to significantly increase jobs and economic growth in our state.