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I got some interesting feedback from a couple of scientists about my story today on the adult skin stem cells that can be used as proxy embryonic stem cells.

As I mentioned in the story, critics of embryonic stem cell research — namely the Roman Catholic Church — often endorse the use of the act-alike cells because the research doesn’t involve the destruction of human embryos, a practice President George Bush has blocked federal funding for.

However, I didn’t directly address the position of scientists who argue that the destruction of an embryo doesn’t equate to taking a human life. Today, Carol Curchoe, a stem cell and regenerative medicine researcher at the Burnham Institute, pointed out what she considers an inconsistency in the government’s policy.

Regarding the benefits of embryonic stem cell research technology that doesn’t require the destruction of a days-old embryo, Curchoe said:

This is the point scientists get the most worked up over, because hundreds of embryos are destroyed all the time in fertility clinics, which are not regulated by the government.

Still, Curchoe was clear that the entire field of stem cell research was being “revolutionized” by the advances in reprogramming adult stem cells to behave like embryonic ones.

For us it is really, really amazing that just four genes could reprogram cells.

Curchoe said she definitely supports further investigation into the proxy cells, but a University of California, San Diego, researcher, who asked to remain anonymous, had harsher words for the emerging research.

He said Bush caters to religious conservatives and that too much science is being done to try to solve a “perceived ethical issue. … It is a degradation of the science we already have and it’s moving the field backwards.”

DARRYN BENNETT

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