Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation 8/29/04

Embryonic stem-cell research - A ray of hope

By Peter Van Etten

As technologically advanced as our country is today, it's both frustrating and heartbreaking that millions of Americans of all ages and across all social, cultural and ethnic groups are still battling life- threatening and debilitating diseases. Not a day goes by when I don't hear from the mother or father of a child with diabetes, asking when their child will no longer have to repeatedly test their blood and inject themselves with insulin up to six times a day. An answer for these parents, and for the 100 million Americans who suffer from debilitating illnesses and conditions, may one day come from embryonic stem-cell research.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is part of a vast and broad coalition supporting embryonic stem-cell research, along with most leading scientists, a majority of politicians in Congress and a clear majority of Americans -- more than 70 percent of voters, according to a recent poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal.

Embryonic stem-cell research holds enormous promise for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, particularly for type 1, or juvenile diabetes. But time is not on our side, and a cure for diabetes and its complications can't come fast enough. While vigilantly monitoring their blood-sugar level, children and adults alike live each day with the knowledge that one missed or misread test could endanger their health, and that, without a cure, the disease could escalate long-term into kidney disease, amputation, blindness and death.
Now, however, embryonic stem-cell research offers an opportunity for scientists to make enormous strides toward understanding how diseases develop and how they can be prevented or cured. Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, provides us the opportunity to take the lead in funding a field of medical research that holds as much promise as any scientific development in the last 30 years.

The time has come to take the political brakes off stem-cell research. Prop. 71 is about advancing the understanding of disease, seeking cures and saving lives for people with diabetes and a host of other diseases and conditions. It is a viable solution that will close the research gap, and it offers a critically important opportunity to invest in the future and our families, so that treatments and cures may one day be reached. This is why Proposition 71 is endorsed by a broad coalition that includes more than 20 Nobel Prize winning scientists, doctors and nurses, Democrats and Republicans, California's top fiscal officers, business groups and organizations like Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Alzheimer's Association California Council, American Nurses Association of California, California Medical Association, Parkinson's Action Network, American Diabetes Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Prop. 71 authorizes tax-free state bonds that will provide up to $350 million per year over 10 years to support stem-cell research at California universities, medical schools and research facilities. This proposition is a compassionate and wise use of our resources, and by making California a leader in stem-cell research, it gives this state an opportunity to share in royalties from the research that will generate thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in new state revenues.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and other patient groups supporting Prop. 71 are proud of past medical achievements. But we remain frustrated in our attempts to find cures, save lives and improve the well being of millions of Americans. There is enormous work yet to be done before any cures from embryonic stem-cell research can flourish, but the sooner we begin, the sooner we can alleviate suffering and bring hope to the lives of millions of Californians and scores of people around the world.

Peter Van Etten is president and CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (www.jdf.org).

Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
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