March of Dimes Misses Irony of Its Logo

March of Dimes has missed the irony of its logo. They are involved with Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Before human embryos are implanted into the womb by in-vitro fertilization, they are first screened for genetic imperfections or diseases. The human embryos that donÂ’’t meet their standards are instead destroyed. The March of Dimes held their 2002 Annual Clinical Genetics meeting March 14-17, 2002. One of the workshops taught those attending how to use PGD to identify more genetic diseases.

The March of Dimes also supports fetal tissue research, as the letter below illustrates.

The Honorable John Edward Porter, Chairman
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
2373 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-1310

Dear Mr. Chairman:

This past February we wrote to you regarding our support for federal funding of research using human pluripotent stem cells. With the Appropriations process progressing we write now to reiterate that support and to urge you to allow this research to move forward.

Human pluripotent stem cells have enormous potential for treatment of disease because they have the ability to form into any type of cell in the body. But only a fraction of the work that will be necessary to transform this potential into reality has yet begun, and only a fraction of the biomedical research community has been able to participate because the federal government has not yet funded any of this work. The National Institutes of Health are in the process of completing guidelines that will permit and govern the use of these cells by federally funded investigators. Only when these guidelines are in place will it be possible to unleash the full capability of the biomedical research workforce toward bringing the remarkable potential of human pluripotent stem cells to fruition.

It is also clear that the American public supports federal funding of this research. A recent nationwide survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International has found that 74% of those polled favor funding of stem cell research by the NIH.

Some have argued that “adult” stem cells will be sufficient in our pursuit of treatments or cures of various diseases. While we believe that research in the area of adult stem cells is vital to the research effort, we are concerned that to restrict work to that area alone will prove insufficient and would be a grave mistake. The prospect of cutting off an avenue of research as promising as that with embryonic stem cells at this very early stage of discovery deeply troubles those of us who conduct and promote health research. Such a prohibition could delay possible treatments for diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by years. Past work on animals has shown us that it is the embryonic stem cells that hold the greatest potential in their ability to be manipulated for treatments of disease.

We are also concerned by the argument that embryonic stem cell research can be left to the private sector. While it is clear that a few privately funded centers are working on pluripotent stem cell research, it is not generally the practice of private companies to conduct this kind of basic research into fundamental developmental processes. That is why it has been and remains the role of the federal government to make the lion’s share of the investment in basic research, which has then been used by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to develop products used for treating diseases. And that is why we cannot rely on private industry to conduct the kind of basic research necessary to move the field of stem cell research from the laboratory bench to the clinic.

Our intent is simply to ensure that research on stem cell lines is not unduly restricted. With appropriate ethical safeguards, such as those being developed by the National Institutes of Health, we believe that a balance can be achieved, which respects both the moral status of the embryo and the public’s sensitivity to this issue while ensuring progress in critical medical research. As we have said before, the government can play an important role of oversight so that our nation’s federally funded scientists can conduct this critical work. Federal support will also increase the financial resources directed to this area of research, which will speed the pace of scientific discovery.

With the great hope pluripotent stem cell research provides to patients ailing or dying from devastating diseases, we urge the Congress to allow this research to move forward with federal support.

Sincerely,

March of Dimes (all signatories)

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