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Washington, D.C. -- Senator Susan Collins, founder and co-chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, today hailed the passage of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.  Senator Collins is a cosponsor of the bill and is a long-time proponent of expanding the nation’s current stem cell policy, which prohibits federally funded researchers from using embryonic stem cell lines derived after August 9, 2001.  The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 63-37.   Specifically, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would lift the current arbitrary restriction so that stem cell lines are eligible for federally funded research regardless of the date on which they were created.  This will enable scientists to take full advantage of the scientific and medical opportunities provided by stem cells.  At the same time, the bill establishes standards and creates a framework to ensure that this research is conducted ethically.  Federal funding would be restricted to stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments that are in excess of the clinical need and that otherwise would be discarded.   “As the founder and Co-Chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, I am particularly excited about the promise that stem cell research holds for a cure for diabetes.  Early research has shown that embryonic stem cells have the potential to develop into insulin-producing cells to replace those that have been destroyed in people with Type I diabetes,” said Senator Collins.  “Limiting researchers to older lines places huge and unnecessary roadblocks in the way of possible treatments and cures for devastating diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, cancer and diabetes.  The simple fact is that the cells that would be used for this research would otherwise be discarded.  The ethical choice is to use them for research that may benefit millions of Americans rather than discard them as medical waste.”   The promise of embryonic cell lines lies with their potential to develop into virtually any cell, tissue, or organ in the body.  As a consequence, this research holds considerable potential to treat and even cure a vast array of diseases and conditions.  Researchers could potentially generate insulin-producing islet cells for patients with juvenile diabetes; neurons to treat Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease; as well as bone marrow cells to treat cancer.  It is estimated that more than 100 million Americans are currently afflicted by diseases or disabilities that have the potential to be treated through this research.   The Senator also supported the passage of two additional measures related to stem cell research that were considered on the Senate floor today.  The Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act would encourage the development of alternative methods for deriving stem cells without using embryos, and the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act would expressly ban the implantation of human embryos for the purpose of aborting them for experimentation.