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Patients First Act would ensure stem cell research is ethical and cure-centered

Joe Davis Jr. suffered from sickle cell anemia when he was an infant. His prognosis was bleak. His life was expected to be short, painful, and full of visits to the hospital. There was no cure for his condition.

Then the Davis family learned of a new treatment: a transplant using adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood. Now they just had to find a donor match. Unfortunately, cord blood banks are both underfunded and undersourced, and in the African American community, donations were low.

Then Joe Jr.’s mother learned she was pregnant. Their second son, Isaac, would turn out to be a perfect donor match for his brother.

When Isaac was born, Joe Jr. was injected with stem cells from Isaac’s umbilical cord blood. Joe Jr. was immediately cured — no trace of sickle cell anemia since the transplant.

Today, eight years later, the Davis boys were at the nation’s capitol to tell their moving story. Said Isaac about the brother he helped save, “He’s my best friend. I love him very much.”

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress aims to facilitate more stories like the Davis family’s. The Patients First Act (H.R. 877) co-sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) would prioritize government funded stem cell research towards treating and curing patients. The bill supports all stem cell research so long as human embryos are not destroyed, discarded, or injured.

The great thing about those two goals — ensuring research is 1. ethically responsible and 2. cure centered — is they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, ethical research using adult stem cells has been used to successfully treat over 70 conditions including sickle cell anemia, cancers, auto-immune diseases, cardiovascular damage, etc. (more information about adult stem cell cures available at http://www.stemcellresearchfacts.org)

Embryo-destructive stem cell research, on the other hand, has successfully treated nothing.

Put simply: this bill makes sure our tax dollars are going to research where we are going to see our money’s worth. It encourages cures without costing lives. At a time when our nation is combating rising health care costs, investing in effective ethical adult stem cell research is the responsible thing to do.

The Patients First Act discourages government funded dead-end projects and enables more donors to be “best friends.”