Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stem Cell Bill Passes MS, Activists Attend Event At U.S. Capitol - Stem Cell Bill Moves To President's Desk

The House of Representatives passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (S. 5) on Thursday, June 7, with a bipartisan vote of 247 to 176. Thank you to the thousands of you who contacted your representatives in Congress recently in support of this issue. Several MS activists participated in an event lauding the passage of the bill in the U.S. Capitol building following the vote. They joined Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), along with House champions Mike Castle (DE) and Dianne DeGette (CO) and Senate champions Dick Durbin (IL) and Arlen Specter (PA), at the celebration.

MS activists who joined in the event included Janet Abrams, Yvonne Brown, Sharon Dodge, Rob Engel, Karen Jackson, Philip Fryer, David Powell, and Bev Thomas. MS activists nationwide have been leaders in speaking out in support of expanded stem cell research.

The bill is now on its way to the president's desk, but he has vowed to veto any legislation lifting his ban on federal funding for additional embryonic stem cell lines. At the Administration's request, this bill includes language that encourages the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue other forms of stem cell research outside embryonic stem cell research. It is because of this modification that the House needed to vote on the Senate bill (S. 5). However, it is expected that President Bush still will veto the bill.

If a veto occurs, the bill will return to the Congressional chamber of origin- in this case the Senate- for an override attempt. A two-thirds majority is necessary to override a presidential veto. While the votes are close, it is possible that the Senate will have the 67 votes necessary. We will keep all MS activists up to date as this progresses in the coming week.

Recent News on Stem Cell Research

The Society is encouraged by recent news on other scientific advances related to stem cells, such as "reprogramming" stem cells without destruction of the embryo. The Society hopes that this science can be verified through peer review studies. We continue to support all types of stem cell research that could help end the devastating effects of MS.

Autoimmune Disease Rally and Health Fair

MS activists participated in the Autoimmune Disease Awareness Rally and Health Fair on May 22, in recognition of May 2007 as National Autoimmune Diseases Awareness Month. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) and the National Coalition of Autoimmune Patient Groups (NCAPG) hosted, and the Society helped sponsor and support, this important event.

Congressmen Steve Israel (NY) and Patrick Kennedy (RI) spoke at the rally, highlighting the need for better education, research, and understanding of autoimmune diseases. Dave Gearing, who lives with MS , spoke to the need for better diagnostic tools and imaging for identifying autoimmune diseases. The event helped call on Americans to learn more about autoimmune diseases like MS, which are still not well-known or understood by the medical and research communities and the public.

Defense Appropriation for MS Research

The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee currently is considering the $15 million federal appropriation for multiple sclerosis (MS) research. The issue continues to move forward in Congress but will likely wrap up by mid-July. MS activists whose legislators have particular influence over this issue have been taking action recently.

Recent studies of U.S. veterans living with MS indicate the need for additional research through this Defense appropriation. Read the story of a Gulf War veteran in Kentucky who is living with MS. The funding would be appropriated through the Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), administered by the Department of Defense, for research into the triggers and treatments of MS. This new source of federal funding for MS research could help move us closer to a world free of MS.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society