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Scientists, Patients, & Families React to Stem-Cell Decision

Who could be most directly affected by the president's decision on stem cell research? CBS News medical correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin has been tracking that part of the story for you.

How much did President Bush's decision mean to 9-year-old Frankie Graham and his family? They rejoiced: "We opened up a bottle of champagne!"

Frankie has juvenile diabetes and his mother hopes embryonic stem-cell research might one day make the painful finger pricking, insulin injections, and constant worry things of the past.

Frankie’s mother, Kelly Graham, said, "It takes up your whole entire life. Not a second goes by [when] you don't know what Frankie's doing or eating."

Now that the research can go forward, juvenile diabetes is one of a long list of diseases scientists believe they can treat by harnessing the power of embryonic stem cells.

Since the stem cells can grow into any cell type, the theory is they could grow into cells that produce insulin, a hormone people with [type 1] diabetes can't make on their own.

But scientists are concerned. The president's plan to limit research to existing cell lines, no matter how many there are, will slow progress. Cells, just like people, age.

Dr. John Gearhart of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explains, "Even a cell line as we know it may have a shelf life, so to speak."

Because stem-cell transplantation may trigger powerful immune responses in patients, Dr. Gearhart foresees needing hundreds of cell lines to conduct matches.

"That is the most problematic area of this whole field: How are we going to get around the immune response mechanism?" Gearhardt asks.

Many doctors agree and see the president's plan as nothing more than a quick political fix that won't really help the science evolve.

Dr. Joseph Fins from Weill Cornell Medical Center says, "People with Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes are going to have to wait longer for some meaningful clinical result than if these regulations were not in place."

But Kelly Graham will wait: "Once the research shows that this will help then I think we'll go full speed ahead."

With the kind of fierce optimism the mother of a sick child has, she hopes the president will go even further.
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