Shafer & Stem Cells

Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) is a leading champion of “non-destructive stem cell research.” He believes that the ethical controversy over embryonic stem cells, which are derived in a process that destroys a human embryo, has hampered stem cell research generally.

Shafer introduced legislation last year creating a Georgia Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Bank to encourage the collection of postnatal tissue and fluid that is rich in stem cells that can be used for medical research and treatment without destroying human life at any stage of development. That legislation won unanimous approval of both House and Senate but failed in the final moments of the session when adjournment came before a motion to reconcile minor differences between the two versions of the bill.

To the credit of Governor Sonny Perdue, he kept Shafer’s idea alive by executive order, creating the a temporary commission on newborn umbilical cord blood research.

Shafer is back with Senate Bill 148, the Saving the Cure Act, which would make the Governor’s commission permanent under a new name, set up the Georgia Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Bank and promote non-destructive research. This bill won the bipartisan approval of the Senate Science and Technology Committee, but backers of embryonic stem cell research want to strip out the definition of “nondestructive stem cell research” so that it can be hijacked as a vehicle for promoting embryo destructive research.

Shafer is on the right track, both ethically and fiscally. All of the cures from stem cell research have come from non-embryonic sources. Other states like California and Wisconsin, looser with both morals and money, promote the more dubious embryonic stem cell research. Georgia should lead in the non-embryonic area. But it needs to hurry. The new Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, has just announced an effort to make his state a leader in non-embryonic research.

I am 100% behind Shafer’s Senate Bill 148, and I hope he resists any “poison pill” amendments that would open it up to embryo destructive research. For more information about his bill, visit this new website at


  1. Embryonic research has been greatly limited. Saying that it hasn’t produced a sufficient number of cures is kind of like Steve Davis saying that no one currently rides the Lovejoy train.

    The first embryonic stem cell lines were harvested in 1998 — less than 10 years ago. In the past, Shafer has tried to go the extra step and potentially criminalize stem cell research in Georgia by using questionable language.

    Thankfully, that was shot down this year. I will wait and see whether this bill tries to do more than it needs to do. At the same time, I wonder how many unused in-vitro embryos will die in a freezer or get thrown away today?

  2. Faye says:

    Thank you Chris!

    Here is what renowned neurologists are saying about the limited usefulness of umbilical cord blood stem cells:

    Stice: Stice pointed out that while cord-blood stem cells are probably a better fit for sickle-cell disease, embryonic cells have appeared to be more effective in treating spinal-cord injuries or growing cardiac-muscle cells.…_7889575.shtml

    Kerr: And adult stem cells aren’t an option. He tried to generate spinal motor neurons from adult stem cells and cells isolated from umbilical cord blood, but decided that programming a blank slate—hESCs—is far more efficient than deprogramming specialized cells and redirecting them toward a different fate. He put everything on hold, pending the outcome of the November midterm elections.

    And those who oppose ESCR please refer to the following list to know how ESCR will be able to help 100 million americans:

    Embryonic Stem Cell Research Progress

    Embryonic stem cell research is an amazingly new science, begun in 1998 by Dr. James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin. Despite continual political attacks, and extremely limited funding, human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) research has already made a substantial contribution to the battle against incurable disease and disability. Below is a sampling of embryonic stem cell research progress.

    ALS: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease: At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, scientists have turned hESC into motor neurons (nerves which carry messages between brain and body), offering possibilities for repairing damage caused by ALS, spinal cord injury, and other nerve-related disorders.
    –Nature Biotechnology, January 30, 2005

    ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: Until now, it was impossible to study the complete progress of this horrific disease, which robs sufferers of both memory and life. We do not know how or why or even exactly when it begins. With human embryonic stem cells, (hESC), however, we may be able to isolate the disease and observe its progress from inception to death on human tissue cells, not human beings. hESCs may also provide a new way to design better Alzheimer’s medicines. Dr. Lawrence Goldstein of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UCSD, is using hESC to test new ideas of how Alzheimer’s disease develops, and how it might be treated.
    –L. Goldstein, personal communication, March 26, 2005

    BIOLOGICAL PACEMAKERS: In Israel, Dr. Izhak Kehat and Dr. Lior Gepstein grew heart stem cells in a Petri dish, and transplanted them into the severely damaged hearts of pigs. Eleven of thirteen hearts regained more normal heart rates. Control animals had no improvement. Their work indicates that stem cell transplantation can translate into clinical benefit for heart disease sufferers.
    –Washington Post, September 26, 2004

    BLINDNESS: The major cause of blindness in Americans over age 60 is macular degeneration: the loss of retinal cells in the eye. Dr. Robert Lanza and Dr. Irina Klimanskaya of Advanced Cell Technology in New Jersey used hESC to make retinal cells, which may one day offer the return of vision to millions suffering from blindness due to retinal disease.
    –Medical Science News, September 23, 2004

    CANCER: The speed at which cancer develops is a major obstacle in curing this devastating disease. At Kumamoto University in Japan, and Cambridge University in England, surface proteins were developed that could mark cancer stem cells, laying ground work for new drugs that may one day slow, or even turn off, tumor formation. Advancing understanding about cancer stem cells draws from knowledge gained about the growth and development of hESCs. This work will open the door to a day when cancer treatments may be truly curative.
    –University of Cambridge, 19 January, 2005

    CYSTIC FIBROSIS: Cystic fibrosis inflames the lungs, strangling CF patients in thick slimy mucous. Using hESCs, Dr. Stephen Minger of King’s College, London, developed a stem cell line of cystic fibrosis. Now the disease can be studied in a human cell line that has genetic mutations akin to those seen in CF sufferers.
    –BBC News UK, September 9 2004

    DEAFNESS: The death of tiny hair cells inside the ear contributes to deafness for an estimated 28 million Americans. These cells do not naturally regrow. However, using hESC techniques, Dr. Stefan Heller of Boston’s Eye and Ear Infirmary has generated these inner-ear hair cells, raising the possibility that this technique may lead to new treatments for the deaf.
    –Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, October 27, 2004

    DIABETES: At Stanford University, researchers have made insulin-producing cells from mouse embryonic cells. When transplanted into diabetic mice, these cells reduced blood sugar fluctuations and increased lifespan (1). And at the University of Miami, Dr. Juan Dominguez Bendala isolated a protein necessary to turn embryonic stem cells into large quantities of insulin-producing pancreatic cells (2).
    –2. Beacon Journal, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, September 7, 2004

    GROWING HUMAN TISSUE: At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr. Robert Langer used embryonic stem cells to grow liver, cartilage, nerve tissue and blood vessels, all of which appeared to function normally when transplanted into mice.
    –Boston Globe, October 28, 2003

    HEMOPHILIA: At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Dr. Jeffrey Fair and Dr. Oliver Smithies used ES cells to reverse hemophilia (blood clotting disorder) in mice.
    –Science Daily, February 15, 2005

    IMMUNE SYSTEM DISEASE: Cambridge, Massachusetts: Adult mice were bred without the gene RAG-2, needed for the immune system. Using Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT, or therapeutic cloning) to make the cells, RAG-2 was given to the mice, partially restoring the non-functioning immune system. This successful proof-of-principle experiment reveals possible benefits for the battle against AIDS.–Cell, April 5, 2002, (1) 17-22

    PARKINSON’S: Israel’s Dr. Benjamin Reubinoff transplanted human embryonic stem cells into the brains of rats which did not have dopamine-producing nerve cells. (Dopamine in a healthy body controls motion; loss of dopamine production in the brain is associated with a Parkinson’s sufferer’s shaking). Implanted stem cells became dopamine-producing cells and brought significant improvements in the animal’s motion relative to controls.–BBC News,
    June 30, 2004

    SPINAL CORD INJURY PARALYSIS: Using hESCs, Dr. Hans Keirstead in the Roman Reed Laboratory at UC Irvine restored myelin insulation around damaged nerves, returning motion to partially paralyzed rats.—Journal of Neuroscience, accepted for publication, March 31, 2005. See also New York Times, February 23, 2005)…h_Progress.htm

  3. Ken says:

    Faye, Steve Stice is not a”neurologist” as you claim. He is a animal husbandry expert at UGA’s vet school and has no business making medical claims.

    Chris, embryonic stem cells have not cured any diseases. None. Scientists have been studing embryonic stem cells from mice for over 25 years and they have not found any cures for mouse diseases either.

    Sen. Shafer’s approach is sound public policy, both morally and fiscally. He is pushing the type of research that is producing cures.

    Embryonic stem cell research is morally and scientifically dubious.

  4. Ken, looks like you spoke too soon:

    To be fair, the scientist said that embryonic and adult stem cells seemed to work equally well. He thought that embryonic cells would be easier to use to coax into neural cells, but said most researchers would probably use adult cells because they are more readily available and have fewer federal restrictions for there use.

    Ken, I am confident that the lack of cures found in embryonic stem cells is more a function of their newness and also the restrictions placed on their use.

  5. Carrie R. says:

    Yes to the research involving adult and postnatal stem cells, the “non-destructive” research Shafer is advocating.

    No to the research that destroys human life, even at the embryonic stage of development.

    Using “discarded” embryos from fertility treatments is a slippery slope that will inevitably lead calls for the manufacture of human embryos through cloning specifically to be used (and killed) in research. That is what I understood Shafer was trying to stop in his bill last year.

    Stem cells are plentiful from “non-destructive” sources. Shafer is right on the mark.

  6. bjvangundy says:


    Other than annoying everyone with your double post of a ridiculously long cut and paste post, I would like to point out that the qualifying words used throughout your post definitely do not prove ANYTHING definitively.

    To have a little fun with cutting and pasting myself, I thought I’d create the following short little paragraph that I was able to cut and paste from YOUR post (so that you can cut and paste it as some kind of medical proof of the healing capabilities of fingernail clippings). Enjoy:

    BJ Van Gundy has stated that if he was given enough fingernail clippings that he believes “we may be able” “to indicate” “that one day” “that possible benefits” “which may one day” “have appeared” to “offer[ing] possibilities” that “Their work indicates” that “possible benefits” “can be studied” so that he can make Faye “appear[ed] to function normally”.

    But given all of those qualifiers that I cut and paste from YOUR post…. don’t get your hopes up about funtioning normally any time soon.

    Thanks David for your hard work in this arena.

  7. Lyle says:

    I agree with Erick, Dougie, Ken, Carrie, Maurice and B.J.! This is a very good bill that will help find cures and save lives. S.B. 148 does not need to get mixed up with embryonic stem cells — which are obtained by destroying human embryos!

    Embryo researchers exploit families suffering from tragedy with exaggerated claims (“promises”). Of course, what else would you expect from people who see nothing wrong in destroying human embryonic life to make money.

    The cures are coming from non-embryonic stem cells like the kind that S.B. 148 promotes. This is a very good bill and it should pass!

  8. Demonbeck says:

    There is already an alternative to destructive embryonic stem cell research and if you people weren’t so damn intent on returning this national debate into a debate on abortion, you’d already know this.

    Research done at Wake Forest University’s BAPTIST Medical Center has found that stem cells in the amniotic fluid show traits of both adult and embryonic stem cells.

    I am going to post a link with info, but will doubt anyone will read it and actually change their mind on the issue of using dead fetuses for the sole purpose of medical research.

  9. buckmckenzie says:

    Stice’s qualifications go a bit beyond breeding cows for the Vet School at UGA. He is a well- recognized stem cell biologist who has engineered methods of mass producing neural stem cells, in addition to his work cloning (different than simply mating) animals. His success can be measured by the degree of concern of GA legislators over the prospect of Stice’s start-up company may be bought by investors from Wisconsin.

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