The political fray surrounding stem cell research - a field of medicine essential to the near future of healthy life extension - is heating up rapidly as the November US presidential election approaches. It looks like bills may be introduced to remove current US administration restrictions on funding embryonic stem cell research. A quick glance at Google News indicates that there is a whole lot of light and noise being generated on this topic.
Sadly, much of this politics-as-usual isn't going to help the major underlying problem. Threatened bans on therapeutic cloning (both in the US and at the United Nations) have been scaring away private funding - billions of dollars that could have been accelerating medical progress in this field. Therapeutic cloning (also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT) is a technology used for both embryonic and adult stem cell research - attacks on therapeutic cloning are attacks on all stem cell research and the future of regenerative medicine. Lifting or modifying current US policy on federal funding doesn't make a great deal of difference here.
Given that policitians are more focused on this topic, is important to write to your elected representatives at this time: make sure that your voice is heard. As sample letter follows:
I am writing to urge your support for human therapeutic cloning, a technology vital to embryonic and adult stem cell research, which holds the potential to treat and better understand the deadly and disabling diseases that affect more than 100 million Americans, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and many others.
The threat of a ban on therapeutic cloning on top of existing legislative restrictions has caused great damage to private funding of stem cell research. Billions of dollars are waiting in the wings to help, but will not be invested in a climate of uncertainty.
Why are US ambassadors to the United Nations continuing to push for a global ban on therapeutic cloning? Why do US senators continue to push back a vote on the therapeutic cloning bill postponed from 2003?
If stem cell research - adult or embryonic - is to obtain significant private funding and thus proceed in any meaningful way, the US government must stop attempting and threatening to ban the most vital technology used in this research.
You can use the online system at Congress.org to send a message and find contact information. Remember that individually written, polite, intelligent faxes work best! E-mail is usually ignored, and old style snail-mail is often left unread for months. So write your own letter, using the example above as a guide, and fax it to your representatives.
I also urge you to visit the website of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, a stem cell research advocacy group. Read the information they present, and use their fast action form to send a message to your representatives.