Thursday, February 8, 2007

Stem cell bill clears first hurdle in Minn. Legislature: DFL plan would allow state funding for U research

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A legislative committee offered a preview Wednesday of the contentious and partisan debate ahead over whether the state should fund embryonic stem cell research at the University of Minnesota.

Supporters testified that embryonic research is a promising source of treatment for Parkinson's disease, diabetes and other disorders, but they said it is being slowed by federal funding restrictions.

"Patients are running out of patience," said Jackie Christensen of the Parkinson's Action Network.

Opponents countered that this form of stem cell research is immoral when it involves the destruction of human embryos — even when those embryos are left over from fertility procedures.

"It is wrong to rely on the destruction of human beings for the possible benefit of others," said Chris Leifeld of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
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Although no state law prohibits funding embryonic research, university policy restricts state funding to the cell lines approved by the Bush administration, said Sara Buss, speaking for the Academic Health Center. That policy would be reconsidered if the Legislature approves the funding bill, she said.
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DFL lawmakers have proposed bills (H.F. 34 and S.F. 100) that endorse state funding for embryonic stem cell research at the University of Minnesota. Stem cells are the building blocks that create other cells in the body. Supporters see embryonic research as a promising source of treatments for many diseases, but opponents find it immoral because it requires the destruction of human embryos. They also point to alternative stem cell sources. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has threatened a veto unless certain restrictions are added to the bills. Pioneer Press

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