The Bakersfield Californian October 12, 2004

Vote yes on Proposition 71

Proposition 71's proposed funding of stem cell research will significantly improve the lives of millions of people.

If enacted, Proposition 71 will raise $3 billion to help conduct vital research. The funding will be spread over several years. It will not spike the state's bonded indebtedness. The state will earn royalty and patent payments resulting from medicines and processes developed through use of the grants.

Stem cells are cells that have not become specialized in their function. But when harvested and implanted into specific tissues -- kidney, skin, nerves, brain, etc. -- they perform tasks previously done by the damaged cells they replaced. Usually, from that point on, they function in their new role continuously.

The process very likely will lead to cures for diseases, such as many cancers, those targeting the kidneys and diabetes, as well as neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington diseases and multiple sclerosis.

In addition, evidence points to the ability to solve conditions that are caused by genetic defects, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and Lou Gehrig's disease; and injury-caused problems, such as paralysis. Stem cells are regarded internationally as essential to medical research.

Allocation of Proposition 71 research money will be directed by a new state agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Independent of the governor and Legislature, it will be overseen by a 29 member Independent Citizens Oversight Committee made up of appointees from state government, academia, nonprofit institutions and hospitals, and patient advocacy and service groups.

All grantees will adhere to state open meeting laws, as well as laws applying to patient privacy, ethical research standards, informed consent and the like.

For two reasons, California should be the focus of this research, which will improve lives around the world as well as in the state.

Although President Bush is the first chief executive to authorize federal stem cell research funding, the amount was so small and restricted that scientists say the potential of their research is limited. As a result, research money and scientific talent is going overseas.

Almost uniquely in the world, California has within it the scientific, academic and biotechnology institutions capable of working together. This synergy makes the potential results better than they would be elsewhere.

Opposition primarily results from the research's reliance on embryonic stem cells stem cells less than a week old that are harvested from embryonic matter, such as from in vitro fertilization.

While that is currently true, more research is needed to foster a greater reliance on adult stem cells that are derived from sources, such as skin, hair, blood and the like. It is the kind of research Proposition 71 could fund.

Other opposition is that bond issues traditionally are used to fund capital and "brick-and-mortar" needs -- schools, roads, parks, reservoirs, sewer treatment plants and the like.

While that is true, it would be cruel and inhumane not to fund this incredible potential for alleviating pain and debilitation in an aging population vulnerable to the kinds of diseases for which stem cells are the best and sometimes only therapy.

We also must not lose the potential of treating diseases we now know are genetic in origin and well suited to stem cell therapy.

Vote yes on Proposition 71.

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