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[IP] more on stem cells
Didn't we come to this country in the first place to avoid political and
religious persecution???? Are we gonna let the BRITS cure diabetes? all I
can say is, I am renewing my passport.....
LONDON (AP) - While American scientists pioneered the recent advances in the
revolutionary field of stem cell research, Britain leapfrogged ahead to
become the first nation to legalize human cloning for such experiments.
Bioethics experts say the reason is simple: Stem cell research, which
involves destroying embryos, is too closely tied to the abortion issue for
the U.S. Congress to fund research.
``It illustrates the dramatic distinction in the way we think about bioethics
here and in Britain,'' said Glenn McGee, a bioethicist at the University of
Pennsylvania and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Bioethics.
``The British are less worried about the fate of the embryo than about
scientists abusing the technology. In Washington, it is the day of the
fetus,'' said McGee, who has conducted comparative research on British and
American approaches to genetic and stem cell research.
In the United States, ``political fear of the religious right is what's
holding it back and it will continue to hold it back,'' McGee said. ``No
congressman has yet taken up even one of our Bioethics Advisory Commission
Dr. Sandy Thomas, director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in London,
agreed it comes down to the influence of anti-abortion activists in
Washington. ``We just don't have that,'' Thomas said. Americans ``are not
going to get the same green light as fast. Britain has a much more liberal
approach to reproductive medicine.''
On Monday, Britain's Parliament approved new regulations that legalize the
destruction of embryos for stem cell research. And in what experts say is a
global first, Parliament permitted cloning to create human embryos for the
In Britain, regulations apply equally to publicly and privately funded
U.S. law bans public funding of research that involves the destruction of
embryos. Although the ban doesn't apply to privately funded scientists,
experts say that without federal money, U.S. scientists will find it
difficult to make significant strides.
``Right about now, everybody in America who works in stem cells is looking
into the price of a business-class ticket to London. All the good work will
move there gradually,'' McGee predicted.
Stem cells, the master cells found in embryos that give rise to all other
cells in the body, are expected to revolutionize medicine. Doctors hope they
will be able to cure or treat scores of illnesses, including diabetes,
rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson's disease.
Stem cells are extracted from the embryo at about three or four days old,
before the cells have started to specialize to create a nervous system, spine
and other features that transform the embryo into a fetus. The idea is that
the growth of stem cells can be directed in a lab to become any desired cell
or tissue type for transplant.
Using embryos cloned from a patient would theoretically produce stem cells
that are a perfect transplant match.
However, U.S. scientists were the first to isolate human stem cells in 1999
and have discovered much of the basic science so far. Johns Hopkins
University stem cell pioneer Dr. John Gearhart says the British lead isn't
surprising. ``The British scientists have set the pace in this field for
years. They did it first (isolating stem cells) in the mouse,'' he said.
The birth of the world's first test-tube baby in London in 1978 sparked
passionate debate over reproductive ethics. The furor prompted a landmark
scientific report on the ethics and science of reproductive medicine, which
eventually led to the establishment in 1991 of the Human Fertilization and
The agency keeps tight control over fertility and embryo research. The setup
seems to have hit the right note, Gearhart said. Although the new embryo
regulations faced impassioned opposition from religious leaders and other
campaigners in Britain, the controversy was relatively mild. Campaigners
opposed to experiments on animals consistently mount larger, noisier and
sometimes violent demonstrations.
``What the Americans have with abortion, we have here with animal rights,''
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