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New Guidelines to Permit Stem Cell Research

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Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, says stem cell therapy might be able to cure diabetes in a decade. The goal would be to build an islet cell that would produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar under control. "What we'd like to make sure is that sick children are represented in this argument," Goldstein tells WebMD.

At the moment, no stem cell research applications are pending at NIH, but it's anticipated that will change in a dramatic fashion now that guidelines have finally come out. Nobel laureate Paul Berg, PhD, of Stanford University, took on stem cell detractors in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

"Some have argued that this research is immoral, illegal, and unnecessary," says Berg, a pioneer in DNA studies. "I respectfully disagree on all counts. ... I believe it would be immoral not to pursue [stem] cell research."

Another stem cell pioneer took part in the conference call -- John Gearhart, MD, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Animal studies already show these cells could help victims of spinal cord injury, says Gearhart, and that's only the beginning.

"The most significant consequence will be that the work will move forward rapidly," he says.

But many wonder if the answers will come in time for them and their loved ones. Lyn Langbein is an attorney who ultimately quit her federal government job to take care of her 5-year-old daughter Jamie, a diabetic.

"I worry about the complications of diabetes -- blindness, kidney disease, and neuropathy to name a few," says Langbein. "They may be just words to you, but to me, it's a real threat that 20 years from now my beautiful little girl will not be able to see out of her big brown eyes."

 

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