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Scientists Make Advances in Stem Cell Research

Two studies published in the April 27, 2001, issue of the medical journal Science, show strong potential for embryonic stem cell to be an effective method of curing diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. The two studies were performed on stem cells from mice. In one study at the Nation Institutes of Health (NIH), the stem cells were cultured into complexes that secreted insulin when exposed to sugarÑan important step in developing a cure for diabetes. In the second study at Rockefeller University in New York, stem cells were cultured into neurons that produced dopamineÑthe brain chemical missing in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers for the study said ultimately, human stem cells could be extracted from a patient in order “to create an unlimited supply of specialized cells that can be use for therapy for that patient”Ñhowever testing these theories on human embryonic stem cells is necessary.

In March, 2001, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Monday he would establish an advisory panel of National Institute of Health (NIH) scientists to research and advise him on the “scientific” and “moral” issues involved in stem cell research before he makes a decision on the fate of government funded stem cell research grants. President Bush and other conservatives are opposed to using human embryos for stem cell research because extracting the stem cells destroys the embryo, despite the fact that researchers could use surplus embryos from fertility clinics that are destined to be discarded. Congress has banned federal funding for research that results in the destruction of a human embryo.

Sources:

Associated Press Ð April 26, 2001; Feminist Majority Foundation

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