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Stem Cell Pressure Builds on Bush

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The early-stage human embryos in question are frozen and "left over" from in vitro fertilization efforts. They would otherwise be discarded.

 

But the Catholic Church and many pro-life advocates are morally opposed to any government involvement in embryonic stem cell research, contending that the research requires destroying human life. Sen. Sam Brownback (R- Kan.) said, "We simply do not need to do any research which relies on the destruction of human beings."

 

By contrast, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said that he believes that life begins in the mother's womb. But Catholic leaders insist that it commences upon the union of the male sperm and female egg.

 

A House hearing Tuesday featured testimony that opposed funding for the embryonic research from a couple who had adopted frozen embryos that ultimately were born as twins.

 

Brownback and others opposed to the embryonic research say that adult stem cells are the only ethically acceptable scientific avenue.

 

But the NIH report noted that adult stem cells are rare and that there is no evidence that they can develop into any other type of cell like embryonic stem cells can.

 

It's still uncertain how President Bush will decide on federal funding for the embryonic research.

 

Bush, who plans to meet with the Pope in Rome later this month, said this week that "the leaders of the Catholic Church ... stand strong on the principle of life. They also stand strong on making sure that those who have no voice are heard."

 

Earlier this year, Bush wrote to a conservative group that he opposed federal funding for "stem cell research that involves destroying living human embryos."

 

Even if embryonic stem cell research flourishes under possible federal funding, there's no guarantee of cures for cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or any other of a list of diseases.

 

The NIH report notes that finding a cure for type 1 diabetes may be difficult because the body's own immune system attacks and destroys its cells. "This ... must be overcome if researchers hope to use the transplanted cells to replace the damaged ones," it says.

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