Controversial stem cell bank opens

The world's first embryonic stem cell bank opened in Britain on Wednesday, breaking new ground in one of the most controversial areas of medical research.

    Stem cell research is opposed by pro life activists

    The bank aims to store and supply stem cell lines - strings

    of identical cells - for research and possible treatment of

    conditions like diabetes, cancer and Parkinson's disease. Its store of

    cell lines is expected to number in the tens of thousands.

    The bank, in Hertfordshire, southern England, will be funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

    Stem cells are master cells in the body that have the

    capability of being transformed into new cells or tissue.

    They can be taken from adults and discarded umbilical cords,

    but those from embryos are considered especially powerful

    because each has the potential to become any sort of cell or

    tissue in development.

    Devastating diseases

    "This potentially revolutionary research could benefit

    thousands of patients whose lives are blighted by devastating

    diseases"


    Lord Warner,
    Health Minister

    Researchers believe stem cells offer a potentially revolutionary

    way to repair diseased and damaged body tissue, but concede that more

    research is needed to understand exactly how they work.

    "This potentially revolutionary research could benefit

    thousands of patients whose lives are blighted by devastating

    diseases," British Health Minister Lord Warner said.

    But opponents say such research involves the "wanton creation and destruction of human life" and have condemned the bank as a storage site for dead babies.

    The bank puts Britain into conflict with pro-life

    campaigners and with the United States, where President George

    Bush issued an executive order in August 2001 limiting federal

    funds for embryonic stem-cell research.

    Anti-abortion groups argue that the bank is unethical

    because the extraction of stem cells from human embryos violates

    the human rights of the embryos.

    "Our problem is in the marketing and developing of embryonic

    stem cells, whose existence depend on a massive destruction of

    early human life," the Pro-Life Party said.

    Reducing human life?

    Patrick Cusworth, spokesman for the LIFE anti-abortion

    group, argued that stem cell research reduces human life to

    "little more than a pharmaceutical product" and holds out "false

    hopes of cures for sufferers of debilitating conditions".

    "Using human embryos as a tissue source is unethical,

    unnecessary and dangerous. Science must exist to

    benefit humanity - not the other way round"


    Patrick Cusworth,
    LIFE anti-abortion group

    "Using human embryos as a tissue source is unethical,

    unnecessary and dangerous," he said. "Science must exist to

    benefit humanity - not the other way round."

    "Stem cell research offers real promise for the treatment of

    currently incurable diseases," Professor Colin Blakemore, Chief

    Executive of the MRC, said.

    "The bank will ensure that researchers can explore the

    enormous potential of this exciting science for the future

    benefit of patients."

    The bank's first two stem cell lines were developed

    separately by researchers at King's College London and the

    Centre for Life in Newcastle, northern England.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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