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Rep. Roscoe Bartlett Urges Support for His Pro-Life, Pro-Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill, H.R. 2574

June 14, 2017

"The United States government can both protect life and be a leader in pursuit of human embryonic stem cell research with my new bill, H.R. 2574, the 'Respect for Life Embryonic Stem Cell Act of 2005,' said Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, its sponsor and the only Member of Congress with a PhD in Human Physiology. H.R. 2574 was introduced with eight pro-life original cosponsors including Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) an M.D. and obstetrician-gynecologist, and Congressman Tom Osborne (R-NE). Separately, the Chairman of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Stem Cell Task Force, Dr. James Battey, wrote Congressman Bartlett a letter on May 23 explaining NIH would welcome grant applications for non-human primate animal studies to develop techniques to create repair kits for embryos and embryonic stem cell lines. A copy of the NIH letter is attached. A copy of the bill text is also attached.

Congressmen Gingrey and Osborne joined Congressman Bartlett in support of the bill's introduction in a one-hour Special Order Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on May 23 beginning at 7:45 pm. Copies of the text from the Congressional Record are available upon request and will also be posted on Congressman Bartlett's website at bartlett.house. The C-SPAN toll-free number for copies of floor speeches is 1-877-662-7726.

"With a certain veto by President Bush of H.R. 810, embryos will be saved from destruction using federal taxpayers' dollars, however the federal government will not be a player and embryos will continue to be destroyed in privately funded research," said Congressman Bartlett. "I voted against H.R. 810 because I can not vote for the destruction of innocent human life for the potential benefit of society, especially when I know that it's unnecessary to harm or kill embryos to engage in embryonic stem cell research."

Congressman Tom Osborne said, "I am very supportive of H.R. 2574 introduced by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett which would allow for 5 years of federal funding to establish a research program to perfect techniques for extracting stem cells from an embryo without harming the embryo in any capacity. Such research yields significant promise for the future of stem cell research by putting us one step closer to finding a way to derive stem cells without creating and destroying embryos."

Speaking on the floor on May 23 in support of the bill, Congressman Gingrey said, "Is it possible to get stem cells from an embryo without destroying the embryo? Is it being done today? No, it is not being done today because, quite honestly, it is easier to scramble an egg than to do one over easy. It is a little more difficult. It will take some study. And we are not talking about long, many years, science fiction at all. We are close. We need a little research, nonhuman primate research, but we are a lot closer to this possibility than a lot of our colleagues and the general public understand."

"I have a 100% pro-life voting record. I wouldn't be proposing this solution if I wasn't sure that it is ethical and scientifically doable," said Congressman Bartlett. "Because of my advanced coursework in embryology as part of my doctoral studies in human physiology, I knew this was theoretically possible and first proposed this in 2001 which was acknowledged by the President's Council on Bioethics in their recent white paper. In four years, the science has advanced and NIH scientists are enthusiastic about the potential to use research on non-human primates to develop the techniques to create a repair kit and an embryonic stem cell line."

"I revere both life and the advancement of knowledge through science," said Congressman Bartlett. "If you will talk to the researchers and the experts in this area as I have, they will all tell you to a man and to a woman that the potential for embryonic stem cell application to medicine should be greater than adult stem cell application because embryonic stem cells--called totipotent--can produce anything and everything that is in the body. For instance, embryonic stem cells hold the most promise for medical advances to treat the devastating and deadly disease of Type I, Juvenile Diabetes."

Congressman Bartlett said, ""What I hope is that H.R. 2574 can be on the President's desk when he is faced with the unhappy choice that he will have to veto HR 810, so that he can now say, Gee, I have a bill which supports what I want, and that is embryonic stem cell research without harming an embryo."

"HR. 2574 is a win-win that can pave the way in the future for individuals who seek to become parents using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and PreGenetic Diagnosis (PGD) the additional option of creating a repair kit for the benefit of their children and the donation of any surplus cells from the repair kit for the creation of embryonic stem cell lines for research. News reports indicate that more than 1,000 healthy babies worldwide and more than 150 in the United States have already been born after undergoing IVF and PGD. In PGD, one or two cells are removed from an early stage 8-cell embryo and the remaining cells are implanted to begin a pregnancy. PGD is offered at more than two clinics in the United States."

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES,

Washington, DC, May 23, 2005.
Hon. ROSCOE G. BARTLETT,
Rayburn House Office Building,
Washington, DC.

DEAR MR. BARTLETT:

I am pleased that Drs. Allen Spiegel and Story Landis were able to meet with you, Mr. Otis and Mr. Aitken during your visit to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last month to discuss ways to derive human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Drs. Spiegel and Landis were serving as Acting Co-Chairs of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force during my leave of absence from this position. Earlier this month, I returned to chair the Task Force. NIH shares your enthusiasm on the therapeutic potentials of hESC research and thank you for your continued support of this field.

Drs. Spiegel and Landis briefed me about your April 26th meeting. I am also aware that you have had previous meetings with NIH officials, including myself, Lana Skirboll and Richard Tasca, on this topic. You propose the possibility of using a cell (or two) removed from the 8-cell stage human embryo undergoing Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to: 1) create a ``personal repair kit'' made up of cells removed from the embryo and stored for future use; and 2) for deriving human embryonic stem cell lines.

You suggested that creating hESC lines in this manner would avoid ethical questions surrounding the fate of a human embryo. Live births resulting from embryos which undergo PGD and are subsequently implanted seem to suggest that this procedure does not harm the embryo, however, there are some reports that a percentage of embryos do not survive this procedure. In addition, long-term studies would be needed to determine whether this procedure produces subtle or later-developing injury to children born following PGD. Also, it is not known if the single cell removed from the 8-cell stage human embryo has the capacity to become an embryo if cultured in the appropriate environment.

NIH is not aware of any published scientific data that has confirmed the establishment of hESC lines from a single cell removed from an 8-cell stage embryo. We are aware of the published research of Dr. Yury Verlinsky in the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago that showed that a hESC line can be derived by culturing a human morula-staged embryo (Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 2004 Vo. 9, No.6, 623-629, Verlinsky, Strelchenko, et al). It is also worth noting, however, that in these experiments, the entire morula was plated and used to derive the hESC lines. The human morula is generally composed of 10-30 cells and is the stage that immediately precedes the formation of the blastocyst.

At the April 26th meeting, NIH agreed that such experiments might be pursued in animals, including non-human primates. That is, animal experiments could be conducted to determine whether it is possible to derive hESCs from a single cell of the 8-cell or morula stage embryo. To date, to the best of our knowledge no such derivations have been successful. NIH also does not know whether these experiments have been tried and failed in animals and/or humans and, therefore, have not been reported in the literature. NIH agreed to explore whether there have been any attempts to use single cells from the 8-cell or morula stage of an animal embryo to start embryonic stem cell lines by consulting with scientists that are currently conducting embryo research. From these discussions, these scientists believe it is worth attempting experiments using a single cell from an early stage embryo or cells from a morula of a non-human primate to establish an embryonic stem cell line.

Of note, a recent 2003 paper from Canada shows that when single human blastomeres are cultured from early cleavage stage embryos, before the morula stage, that there is an increased incidence of chromosomal abnormalities. Even with hESCs derived from the inner cell mass of the human blastocyst, the odds of starting a hESC line from a single cell are long, perhaps one in 20 tries. Thus, the odds of being able to start with a single cell from an 8-celled or morula staged embryo are equally challenging. This would make it difficult to accomplish the goal of establishing ``repair kits'' and hESC lines from any single PGD embryo. (Fertil Steril, 2003 June, 79(6): 1304-11, Bielanska, et al). It is possible, however, that improvements in technologies for deriving and culturing hESCs may improve these odds.

NIH concludes that the possibility of establishing a stem cell line from an 8-cell or morula stage embryo can only be determined with additional research. NIH would welcome receiving an investigator-initiated grant application on this topic using animal embryos. The Human Embryo Research Ban would preclude the use of funds appropriated under the Labor/HHS Appropriations Act for pursuing this research with human embryos. As with all grant applications, the proposal must be deemed meritorious for funding by peer review and then will be awarded research funds if sufficient funds are available. It also bears keeping in mind that it may take years to determine the answer.

At the April 26th meeting, you had mentioned that twins can develop when the inner cell mass splits in the blastocyst and forms two embryos enclosed in a common trophoblast. You asked if cells from the inner cell mass could be safely removed without harming the embryo. In animal studies, it has been shown that the blastocyst can be pierced to remove cells of the inner cell mass and the embryo appears to retain its original form but it is not known whether the embryo will result the birth of a healthy baby. Since this experiment in human embryos at either the morula or the blastocyst stage would require evaluations of not only normal birth but also unknown longterm risks to the person even into adulthood, it would have to be considered a very high risk and ethically questionable endeavor. Because of the risk of harm, this research would also be ineligible for federal funding.

You had also asked NIH about the latest stage in development that an embryo can be artificially implanted into the womb. We know that infertility clinics transfer embryos at the blastocyst stage (approximately Day 5 in human embryo development) as well as at earlier stages.

Finally, I am providing an additional resource that was discussed at the April meeting. I have enclosed a copy of a recently released white paper developed by the President's Council on Bioethics (PCB) on Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stern Cells. In this white paper, the PCB raised many ethical, scientific and practical concerns about alternate sources for deriving human pluripotent stem cells without harming the embryo. Your proposal is specifically discussed in this report.

I hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

James F. Battey, Jr.,
Chairman, NIH Stem Cell Task Force