Testimony before the New Jersey State Assembly by James Kelly

Date: 11/04/2002

November 4, 2002

You have been told that embryonic stem cells and therapeutic human cloning holds mankind’s brightest “promise” for cures. In my opinion, you’ve been told a lie!

Leading scientists admit the therapeutic potentials of embryonic stem cells are probably ten years away or more. This time-span will not be shortened by cloning. Stem cells derived from cloning contain widespread, unpredictable genetic flaws. In cloned animals these flaws lead to tumor formation, mutations, disease, and premature death. When used in adult tissues, embryonic stem cells from any source, whether from cloning or not, has led to inappropriate tissue growth, malignant tumor formation, genetic mutation, and immune rejection. Cloning is being hyped as an embryonic stem cells source able to avoid rejection. However, leading pro-cloning researchers admit they fully believe that stem cells derived from cloning will still be rejected by the donor from which they’re cloned. In fact, a study in mice has already confirmed this point. Therefore, regardless of what embryonic stem cells may or may not have the potential to do, huge safety, reliability, and practical issues need to be overcome before they can begin to reach their mythical potential.

Regarding cloning, in predicting the availability of cloning-based cures, pro-cloning scientist Jane Rowley of the President’s Bioethics Council likened the development of therapeutic cloning to America’s war on cancer, which was declared in the early seventies and regarding which Dr. Rowley admits “we’re still not even close.” So when Dr. Rowley says therapeutic cloning “may take a long time” to realize its potential, please consider the misery and death that might be avoided if resources needed to develop this highly speculative, highly problematic avenue were instead restricted to safe, effective, less problematic alternatives.

My written handout explains what these alternatives are and my reasons for believing they’re valid. At this point you might wonder why we would be encouraged to travel these paths if we do indeed have safer, more direct paths to our clinical goals. In my opinion this question goes to the heart of a matter that many see as a struggle to define human life, but that I see as a test in which our actions will expose who and what we are. Please consider these issues from the following pro-cloning, pro-embryonic research perspectives.

Actor Christopher Reeve supports embryonic research avenues. His views are shared by others in entertainment and the media. Some do so because they’ve accepted speculative claims about miraculous cures that seem to make sense until one looks at cold, hard facts. Others promote embryonic research out of pro-abortion viewpoints. But in my opinion these issues are not about abortion, they’re about diverting funds and resources away from research that has a strong likelihood for leading to effective treatments or outright cures in the foreseeable future. In some cases, including for Diabetes, reversing paralysis, Parkinson’s Disease, Sickle Cell Anemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Leukemia, and Heart Disease, Science is literally on the threshold of producing these treatments, not ten years away!

Consider the case of Mr. Reeve, who raises millions for basic academic research. According to Reeve, he bases his cloning support in part due to statements he attributes to Dr. John McDonald, an embryonic stem cell researcher funded by Reeve’s foundation. Dr. McDonald supposedly told Reeve that only embryonic stem cells could recoat his spinal cord with a fatty insulation, called myelin sheathing, and that only embryonic stem cells derived from cloning would be safe to use. Yet this same researcher has implanted cells taken from pigs into human patients for the same purpose. Why is it safe to use cells from pigs on others, but only cloned embryonic cells on Reeve? Nor was Mr. Reeve told that four adult cell-types have proven able in animal models to remyelinate the brain and spinal cord (neural stem cells, bone marrow stem cells, olfactory ensheathing glial cells Schwann Cells), none of which face rejection, and all of which are on the verge of human testing. Apparently he wasn’t told that researchers at Harvard claim neural stem cells provide the optimum means to achieve this end, or that Yale is already conducting a Multiple Sclerosis clinical trial using one of these methods (adult Schwann Cells).

Mr. Reeve’s condition is much worse than mine, and his time is much more constrained. Therefore Mr. Reeve has little choice but to believe what he’s told by those with a personal stake in these issues, either through his foundation’s financial support, or through its continued existence. In New York he claimed the only possible cure for ALS lay in embryonic stem cell research. When told a multi-center clinical trial for ALS was underway in Italy using the patient’s own bone marrow stem cells, he refused to believe it.

Regarding the motives of biotech: Embryonic stem cell and cloning research need public assistance. Their problems are too many and too complex. Future potentials for profits are too far in the future to attract knowing investors. Embryonic cell-based companies therefore actively support public and private funding of these avenues in the hopes a gullible public will pay for solutions that investors won’t.

Regarding the motives of biotech and pharmaceutical firms not interested in pursuing these avenues, but who politically support their cause: What better way can they protect profits gained from selling drugs or treatments that only treat conditions, which adult stem cells or other non-embryonic avenues are likely to cure, than to support the diversion of resources towards avenues that offer no immediate threat and only a very uncertain future threat? The same course of action protects their product pipeline.

Regarding Academic Researchers: Some study embryonic science. Some want to stay in the good graces of the NIH. For others, Science is an end in itself, not a means to an end, not to be questioned, and never to be denied.

Regarding politicians: Some honestly believe the hype. Others have no regard for truth and less for their constituents suffering. These latter embrace embryonic research as a means of gaining campaign financial support from bio-tech (as in Utah Senator Orrin Hatch) and campaign voter support based on the illusion that embryonic research is the voter’s interest.

Regarding the sick, disabled, and dying: We need hope to survive. We need to believe the scientists and doctors we blindly trust are primarily interested in saving our lives, or making us well. We don’t want to consider we’re being used…used by researchers, corporations, institutions, foundations, and political leaders. But the sad, unvarnished truth is we are.

If you want to support embryonic sectors in biotech…if you want to protect pharmaceuticals by suppressing or delaying cures…if you want to enhance your political fortunes by misleading your constituents to their ultimate loss, then by all means support embryonic research and cloning. But admit to yourself you’re promoting Science for the sake of Science, or Science for the sake of profits, or Science for the sake of votes, but not Science for the sake of cures. Or else not only will you be part of the lie, but you’ll have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.