Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, noted on his Facebook page on Wednesday that he supports ALS research that “respects human life,” which is to say does not involve the use of embryonic stem cells. He also noted that he sent his check to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute which conducts ALS research but avoids embryonic stem cell treatments. The ALS Association does have a small project that delves into that area of treatment, but has stated that any donor can designate that the donation could go elsewhere.
Cruz is wading into a controversy that dates back to the Bush administration. The use of stem cells, which are the prototypes of all human tissue, has held a great deal of promise for treatments of a variety of diseases, including ALS. But there are two ways to create stems cells, from human embryos and from adult tissue.
It is relatively easy to create stem cells from human embryos. However the problem is that the process involves the destruction of said embryo. Someone who takes the pro-life position on abortion, a Cruz does, opposes such an approach because it requires the destruction of a human life.
The use of adult stem cells, usually taken from human skin, is considered more ethical by people in the pro-life community. Research into adult stem cell treatments has proven to be promising, especially in the treatment of certain kinds of cancer such as leukemia.
The use of federal dollars to fund embryonic stem cells in research was strictly limited by President George W. Bush. President Obama overturned that policy in 2009, claiming that the restriction had “no basis in science.” Some would suggest that the former restrictions do have a basis in ethics.
In the meantime, the viral ice bucket challenger, which Cruz, along with former President Bush and Sarah Palin and a myriad of celebrities have taken up, has reaped over $80 million for the ALS Association. As such it has to be counted as one of the most successful fund raising campaigns associated with a deadly disease in history. ALS us a degenerative nerve disease that robs people of voluntary and eventually involuntary muscle control, leading to paralysis and then death.