THE BLOG
04/17/2007 01:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Stem Cell Research Breaking Through to the Big Time

There was a remarkable story last week about results from stem cell research. Not only was the progression of Type 1 diabetes halted by a stem-cell transplant, but the possibility was raised that it could be completely reversed.

The findings, initially reported in the Journal of America Medicine, were stunning. Of the 15 patients participating in the test, 14 were able to stop their insulin injections for lengthy periods. One patient has gone for three years without taking insulin. All since receiving stem-cell transplants.

"It's a big deal," Dr. Stephen Forman of the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center told the Los Angeles Times. "The fact that you got somebody insulin-independent, there's a clue there" for the hope of a cure.

Let's put this in perspective: in the U.S. alone, there over 30,00 new cases of Type 1 diabetes every year, and 3 million people here have the disease, for whom the previous likelihood was an early death.

And the president of the United States proudly vetoed stem cell research - the only veto of his presidency, that's how important this veto was to him. And with the Senate having just passed another stem cell bill by 63-34, George Bush has threatened yet another veto.

The Senate bill "is very similar to legislation I vetoed last year," George Bush said. "This bill crosses a moral line that I and many others find troubling. If it advances all the way through Congress to my desk, I will veto it."

On the one hand, Mr. Bush is correct - the bill does cross a moral line. It crosses it from the dark back into the light. And it does raise a moral issue - literally. It raises morals to a level where 3 million Americans now have the hope of living a full life.

Watching George Bush discuss crossing moral lines is like watching a lost dog trying to cross a superhighway. It can hear the noise and see the whizzing movement, but if takes a step into the bewildering mix it will likely get flattened.

If George Bush was actually concerned with moral lines, we would never have entered Iraq, and 600,000 innocent Iraqi civilians and 3,200 American soldiers would still be alive. If George Bush cared about moral lines, New Orleans would have been rebuilt by now. He would have pushed for universal health care, increased the minimum wage, funded 'No Child Left Behind.'

Of course George Bush finds crossing a moral line troubling. He finds moral lines troubling the same way vampires are terrified by garlic.

What would be nicer is if President Bush found the imminent, early deaths of 3 million Americans from diabetes "troubling." Heart-breaking, tragic and devastating are better adjectives, but with George Bush, one would be happy to settle for "troubling."

The House is on the verge of passing its own bill on stem cell research. With such breath-taking advances as these private diabetes findings are - in just this one area of medicine - imagine if there was government support behind this. The kind that took the U.S. to the moon. Imagine if only a small portion of those hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq were spent on making America and the world a better place.

Yet the president of the United States threatens a veto. Another stem cell veto.

"Not every day do we have the opportunity to vote to heal the sick," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo). "It is a noble cause."

Maybe stem cell research will one day find a cure for words falling on deaf ears. But then, without the billions from government research, that day might be a long way off. Happily, "a long way," in this case, is 19 months until the next presidential election.

The chief sponsor of the bill, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), not surprisingly urged Mr. Bush to reconsider this bill. However, Harkin added an eloquent admonition, which pinpoints how the administration has held back the best that this country has to offer the world: "Unleash America's scientists."

Alas, unleashing America's scientists has not been a priority of this administration. Unless one considers "low-priority" to be a priority.

And yet now, even being held back, scientists have shown success - great success - in stem cell research. No longer can opponents claim that no achievements have been demonstrated. It's an important moment in the betterment of mankind.

And the president of the United States threatens a veto. Another stem cell veto.

On Sunday, America celebrated the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first black baseball player in the Major Leagues. A versatile, much-admired hero in many areas of life - sports, business, education and politics - Robinson died much too early, at the young age of only 53.

He had diabetes.