WASHINGTON – Sen. Arlen Specter (search), newly bald from chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin's disease (search), held himself up on Wednesday as Exhibit A for the possible benefits of embryonic stem cell research (search).
A day after the House voted to overturn President Bush's prohibition on federal funding for research using cells from human embryos fertilized after 2001, Specter said similar action by the Senate would give hope to himself and others with Alzheimer's disease (search), diabetes and cancer.
The Pennsylvania Republican called Bush's promise to veto any relaxation of his restrictions on funding stem cell research an affront to millions of people with diseases that might be treated or even cured with federal dollars propelling the science.
"I look in the mirror every day, barely recognize myself," he said. "And not to have the availability of the best of medical care is simply atrocious."
Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced in January that he has Hodgkin's disease, a type of cancer involving the lymph nodes, and began a 32-week regime of chemotherapy treatments.
Bush and other opponents of abortion denounce using stem cells from leftover embryos from fertilization clinics for research because the embryos are destroyed in the process. Supporters, however, say stem cells from embryos are more likely than stem cells from umbilical cord blood or bone marrow to produce more types of tissues needed to treat and possibly cure debilitating diseases.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has declined to say when or if the Senate might consider a bill. Supporters of the measure say they may try to attach it to a must-pass spending bill.