Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, introduced legislation Thursday that would prevent the use of federal funds for stem cell research involving human embryos.
Banks' bill would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to give priority to medical research “with the greatest potential for near-term clinical benefit in human patients” and that does not use stem cells from destroyed, discarded or created embryos.
Scientists say embryonic stem cells show potential for transforming into other cells that might repair tissue damaged by disease or injury. Human embryonic stem cells used in research come from donated, unused fertilized eggs developed for in vitro fertilization procedures.
Adult blood stem cells are used to treat leukemia, and adult neural stem cells have been tested for brain disorders and spinal cord injuries.
“This bipartisan bill prioritizes stem cell research that has a real impact on patients suffering right now while ensuring that research is conducted ethically without destroying human embryos,” Banks, a freshman lawmaker from Columbia City, said in a statement.
Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., co-sponsored Banks' bill, which is called the Patients First Act of 2017.
The Dickey-Wicker Amendment of 1996 prohibited HHS from funding research using created or destroyed human embryos. But a federal court ruled in 2011 that Dickey-Wicker was “ambiguous” and did not ban research using stem cells from in vitro fertilization.
The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, a coalition of medical companies, research institutions and patient advocacy groups that support embryonic stem cell research, had little to say Thursday about Banks' legislation.
“As an organization representing the broader global regenerative medicine sector, our position is that we are in favor of government funds supporting the best science in an effort to speed safe and efficacious products to patients in need,” Lyndsey Scull, senior communications director for ARM, said in an email.
Scull said ARM would monitor Banks' bill in the legislative process.
Banks' proposal states it would “promote the derivation of pluripotent stem cell lines without the creation of human embryos for research purposes and without the destruction or discarding of, or risk of injury to, a human embryo.”
The National Institutes of Health defines pluripotent stem cells as those that “can give rise to any type of cell in the body except those needed to support and develop a fetus in the womb.” They come from embryos and fetal tissue, although induced pluripotent stem cells are genetically reprogrammed cells taken from adult tissues.
In May, Banks led a letter signed by 40 other Republican House members that asked President Donald Trump to replace Dr. Francis Collins as the director of the NIH because of Collins' support for human embryonic stem cell research. Trump announced last week that he is retaining Collins, a geneticist nominated for NIH chief by President Barack Obama and confirmed by unanimous consent by the Senate in 2009.
The NIH is an HHS agency.