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Senate committee delays stem cell research debate in US

4 October 1999
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 28

In the US, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to delay a debate in the Senate over whether to allow federal funding of research involving embryonic stem cell.

The Senate panel voted to drop from the Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS) bill language originally added to create within the existing funding ban on embryo research an exception for embryonic stem cell research - opposed by anti-abortionist for involving the destruction of human embryos in the extraction of these embryonic cells. Human embryonic stem cells were successfully isolated and cultured last year by privately funded scientists.

The scientific community believes that further research could lead to therapies for many diseases that are currently untreatable and many scientists in the US have been lobbying for federal funding to be allowed for such research.

The stem cell research exception in the annual US spending bill was added by Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter who said that anti-abortion senators urged him to delete the language to avoid further delay in consideration of the rest of the bill. Specter said that a separate vote by next February has been promised and that the spending bill without the added text would merely preserve the status quo. However, senators who support embryonic stem cell research argue that it remains unclear whether the current embryo research ban covers stem cell work.

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