THE BLOG
10/29/2014 01:58 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2014

Iowa and Stem Cells: Braley/Ernst Race has National Impact

Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley strongly supports embryonic stem (ES) cell research.

"For me, this isn't a Republican or Democratic issue--it's a personal one. My own nephew suffers from juvenile diabetes, and I stand with former First Lady Nancy Reagan in support of the research that might one day save his life."

His Republican rival, Joni Ernst, takes the opposite position. Ms. Ernst has sponsored "personhood" legislation which would give legal rights to fertilized eggs. This would almost certainly criminalize ES research, as well as threatening the existence of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures, along with other perhaps unintended consequences.

Her party's platform is crystal clear: calling for a "ban on all embryonic stem cell research, both public and private".

Does this matter, in an Iowa Senatorial race?

Only if someone you love has diabetes, blindness, or Alzheimer's disease.

Thanks to embryonic stem cell research, and the strong support of Democrats like retiring Tom Harkin, (whom Joni Ernst hopes to replace), all three of these conditions are closer to cure right now.

Consider three recent breakthroughs:

Blindness: In ES safety trials, legally blind patients have recovered vision, although only given minimal dosages.

"...human embryonic stem cells... improved the vision in more than half of the 18 patients who had become legally blind because of two...currently incurable eye diseases." (The two eye diseases are macular degeneration, a common source of adult-onset blindness, and Stargardt's disease, which threatens young people.)

Diabetes: two major ES cell breakthroughs this month: human trials began for a credit-card-sized device which goes under the skin and dispenses ES-derived insulin, as well as a separate ES way to make mass quantities of beta cells needed by diabetics.

"As San Diego's ViaCyte was in the midst of launching the first FDA-approved embryonic stem (ES) cell clinical trial for diabetics last week, Boston's Harvard University reported that cells made from ES cells "cured" diabetic mice...."

Alzheimer's Disease: For the first time, scientists are able to study the terrible memory loss condition in a Petri dish. Before this, there was no way to follow the disease through its life cycle, or even to know when Alzheimers' began.

But now? "Group members used human embryonic stem cells....and grew them with a mixture of chemicals that made them turn into neurons (nerve cells)...gave those neuron Alzheimer's genes and grew them in...petri dishes..."

All of the above research was done on fertilized eggs which would otherwise have been thrown away.

And none of it would have been allowed, if Joni Ernst's personhood law-- or her party's national platform--had been imposed.

Whom will Iowa send to Washington: Bruce Braley who supports the research, or Joni Ernst, whose party would end it?

Let Tuesday, November 4th, be a day when all America turns out to vote.