April 10, 2007

Whitehouse Shares Westerly Girl’s Story in Push for Stem Cell Research

Federal Support for Vital Research Could Help Save Millions of Lives

Washington, D.C. – Sharing the story of Lila Barber, a 12 year old girl from Westerly, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today illustrated the hope stem cell research can offer in a speech on the Senate floor in favor of legislation to expand federal funding for stem cell research.

Whitehouse met Lila two weeks ago. She was diagnosed two years ago with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone condition, and last year underwent cadaver bone transplant surgery. The procedure saved her leg and is helping her remain cancer-free, but the transplanted tissue will not grow with her and likely will break down over time. Stem cell research, Whitehouse explained, could vastly improve the care of patients like Lila by allowing surgeons to enhance transplants with a patient’s own stem cells, which could replace the lost bone and cartilage, or grow entirely new replacement bones and joints.

“Stem cell research gives hope to Lila and millions of Americans challenged by osteosarcoma, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, stroke, and a myriad of diseases and conditions this research might help or even cure,” Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse also praised the efforts of Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin (D), a champion of stem cell legislation nationally and in Rhode Island, as well as Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts. Roberts today released a statewide report on stem cells, a first step toward developing a comprehensive plan for research initiatives in Rhode Island.

The Stem Cell Enhancement Act (S. 5) expands the number of human embryonic stem cells eligible for federally-funded research beyond the arbitrary limits imposed by President Bush in August 2001. The bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct research on stem cells derived from embryos currently stored in fertility clinics that would otherwise be destroyed.

Last year, 63 senators voted to pass the Stem Cell Enhancement Act (H.R. 810), legislation similar to S. 5. President Bush issued the first veto of his presidency to block the bipartisan measure.


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