The American Diabetes Association (the Association) today urged the US Senate to take up and pass the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005" (S.471), legislation that would accelerate stem cell research by easing existing restrictions and supporting research that uses embryonic stem cells.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the stem cell legislation with clear, bipartisan support, and public opinion polls show a strong majority of Americans support stem cell research. The Association has been a strong supporter of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act because it would advance the search for better treatment and a cure for diabetes, one of the nation's most prevalent, debilitating and deadly diseases.

The Association applauded the bill's Senate sponsors - Arlen Specter (R-PA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Gordon Smith (R-OR) - for their leadership on the issue.

"The American Diabetes Association's mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. We strongly believe that stem cell research can play a vital role in that mission," said Stewart Perry, who has type 2 diabetes and is Vice Chairman of the American Diabetes Association. "By expanding the number of stem cell lines that are eligible for federally funded research while also implementing strong ethical guidelines to improve federal oversight, this legislation provides hope to the more than 18 million Americans living with diabetes. The Senate should follow the bipartisan lead of the House of Representatives, and immediately pass S.471, and send it to the President." Although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the country's leading research institution, the work it can carry out in the area of stem cell research has been severely limited due to current federal policy.

Federal regulations that President Bush announced in 2001 have restricted the number of human embryonic stem cell lines available for federally-funded research, and attempted usage of those lines has demonstrated that the number of adequate lines is even smaller than expected.

A significant expansion in the number of available lines is necessary in order to fully reap the medical rewards of stem cell research. Stem cell research allows scientists to better explore how to control and direct stem cells so they can grow into other cells, such as insulin-producing beta cells found in the pancreas. Creating new beta cells could mean a cure for type 1 diabetes as they would serve as a replenishable source of cells for islet cell transplantation. They could also provide a powerful tool for controlling type 2 diabetes.

"While embryonic stem cell research has only taken place in the last decade, researchers have made several advances to demonstrate its potential for scientific progress, and they now understand pieces of the framework for how this research could benefit diabetes," said Robert A. Rizza, MD, of the Mayo Clinic and Foundation, and the incoming President of the American Diabetes Association.

"The Senate has an opportunity to accelerate this research, while maintaining strict ethical guidelines. For the more than 18 million Americans with diabetes and their families, and millions of other Americans who battle other debilitating diseases, it is an opportunity that should not be squandered."

Diabetes is one of this nation's most prevalent, debilitating, deadly and costly diseases. While 18.2 million Americans live with diabetes today, estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that one in three Americans born in the year 2000 will live with diabetes in their lifetime. Approximately 42,000 people suffering from diabetes live in each Congressional District, and that number is now growing at a rate of 8 percent per year. In 2002, one in 10 healthcare dollars went towards diabetes care. The cost of diabetes in America in 2002 was at least $132 billion.

The American Diabetes Association is the nation's leading voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information and advocacy. The Association's advocacy efforts include helping to combat discrimination against people with diabetes; advocating for the increase of federal diabetes research and programs; and improved access to, and quality of, healthcare for people with diabetes. The Association's mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Founded in 1940, the Association provides service to hundreds of communities across the country. For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800342-2383) or visit www.diabetes. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.

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