Thompson, Romney Praise Stem Cell Research, Others Mum

Nathan Burchfiel | Staff Writer | Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thompson, Romney Praise Stem Cell Research, Others Mum

( - Two Republican presidential contenders have praised reports from two teams of scientists announcing their ability to create pluripotent stem cells from adult skin cells that appear to be as beneficial as more controversial embryonic stem cells.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson called the reports "exciting news," adding that "for all who are concerned for patients and their families, the effective, ethical, and compassionate answer is to put our money where the breakthroughs are happening - in adult stem cell research."

"Using adult stem cells negates the need for cloning embryos to harvest their stem cells," Thompson said, aligning himself with pro-life activists who believe that embryonic stem cell research, which involves destroying human embryos to harvest their stem cells, is morally wrong.

The discovery is a major breakthrough for the study of stem cells, which are thought to be capable of treating a variety of diseases such as Parkinson's disease. Embryonic stem cells were thought to be preferable to adult cells due to their ability to develop into numerous types of cells.

But the research, conducted by scientists in Kyoto, Japan, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, discovered the ability to induce adult skin cells into pluripotency - the ability that embryonic stem cells have to adapt to many other types of cells.

Pro-life activists hailed the discovery as a victory.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Tuesday that the discoveries "end debate" on the need for embryonic stem cell research. "This demonstrates what pro-lifers have been saying since the beginning. It is never necessary to compromise ethics by destroying life in order to achieve scientific aims," he said.

In addition to Thompson, who recently earned the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also praised the discoveries.

"New developments confirm that cutting edge science and ethical principles are not opposed to one another," Romney said in a statement released Wednesday. "The scientists deserve credit for their genius, but equally, the voices insisting on ethical science and respect for human life provided the incentive for this revolutionary research."

Unlike Thompson, Romney did not firmly say that the findings negate the need for continued research involving embryonic stem cells.

Other leading presidential candidates including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), have not issued statements on their Web sites. Representatives for the candidates did not respond to requests for statements by press time Wednesday.

As senators, Obama and Clinton have both voted in favor of measures that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

During a debate with other Republican hopefuls, Giuliani said that he supported federal funding of embryonic stem cell research "as long as we're not creating life in order to destroy it, as long as we're not having human cloning."

While campaigning with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential campaign, Edwards said that "if we do the work [with stem cell research] that we can do in this country, the work we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

He was referring to the actor Christopher Reeve, best known for playing Superman, who was paralyzed after a horse riding accident. Edwards made the comment two days after Reeve died.

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