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Stem Cell Research

8 cell stage of fertilized egg or stem cell.
iStockphoto
The U.S. House of Representatives kicked off debate on legislation boosting taxpayer-funded research on embryonic stem cells. At stake is whether research on cells taken from human embryos considered by scientists to be the most promising approach to developing potential treatments or cures for dozens of diseases should be underwritten with taxpayer funds.


What Are Stem Cells?
According to WebMD, stem cells are immature, undeveloped cells that have the ability to evolve into any of the roughly 220 different cell types in the body. They can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.


Why Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Controversial?
Embryonic stem cell research is controversial because the stem cells are taken from a human embryo, which is destroyed in the process.


Why Doesn't The Federal Govt. Fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
Since culling embryonic stem cells kills the embryos, President Bush on Aug. 9, 2001, restricted government funding to research using only the embryonic stem cell lines then in existence, groups of stem cells kept alive and propagating in lab dishes.


Who Sets Policy To Let Federal Money Be Used For Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
As the head of the executive branch of the federal government, which includes the National Institutes of Health, the President of the United States has the final responsibility and authority to set federal government policy for funding human embryonic stem cell research. But Congress has appropriations authority and can possibly override the President's decision.


What Could Stem Cells Do?
According to the National Institutes of Health, a potential application of stem cells is making cells and tissues for medical therapies. Pluripotent stem cells offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat a myriad of diseases, conditions, and disabilities including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Can I donate Umbilical Cord Stem Cells?
The National Marrow Donor Program has a Web page on donating cord blood here, and the International Cord Blood Society has one here.



To Learn More About Stem Cells:
• Click here for stem cell information from the National Institutes of Health.

• You can read more about stem cells through the Stem Cell Research Foundation.

• You can learn more about the debate over embryonic stem cells through WebMD.