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US stem cell news

7 March 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 298

Four bills have been filed in the US state of Texas that would affect stem cell research. Two of the bills seek to endorse the research, although neither would provide state funding for embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. The other two bills seek to restrict - although not ban - the practice of ES cell research in the state. All four bills prohibit human reproductive cloning.

The restrictive bills, sponsored by state Representative Phil King and state Senator Ken Armbrister, would prohibit the use of cloning to create embryos for research purposes, but would allow ES cell research on cells derived from embryos left over from fertility treatments. The King/Armbrister bills would make it a first-degree felony to participate in 'therapeutic cloning', or even to consult with researchers doing it in other states and countries. The other two bills, sponsored by Representative Beverly Woolley, and Senator Eliot Shapleigh, would allow most kinds of stem cell research, including allowing embryos to be cloned for ES cell research.

Meanwhile, proposed legislation that would mean the state of New York would spend $100 million per year on ES cell research seems to be gaining support. State lawmakers from both political parties put forward the new bill last week, in an effort not to be left behind by other states who have moved to publicly fund the research and get around the restrictions on federal funding. State Senator Nicholas Spano will introduce a bill that will mean New York invests $1 billion in stem cell research, which he described as 'an investment we have to make'. A similar bill has passed through the state's House of Representatives before, but never the Senate. Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno, however, indicated that he might oppose the bill: 'We don't support destroying embryos to get cells', he said. He, as well as state Governor George Pataki, also hinted that the state's finances - a $4 billion budget deficit - might work against those seeking to get the bill passed.

In Massachusetts, where another endorsing ES cell research is being debated, lawmakers are confident that they can get it passed without the support of the Governor. Senate President, Robert Travaglini, who sponsored the bill, predicts the legislature would have the two-thirds majority needed to override any veto from Governor Mitt Romney. 'We're already at two-thirds', he said, adding 'we're going to have to override gubernatorial veto. He has made it abundantly clear that he is going to veto the bill'. Romney, writing in an editorial piece for the Boston Globe, reinforced that this is his view, saying he would support ES cell research on embryos left over from fertility treatments but not the use of cloning to create embryos for research. He said: 'By using the powers of science wisely, by doing the right thing in the right way, our state can set the standard for all America and for all the world'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
$1B sought for stem cell study
The Journal News |  2 March 2005
Democratic leaders vow quick action on stem cell bill
The Boston Globe |  2 March 2005
Life-and-death stem cell issue hits Texas
Houston Chronicle |  7 March 2005
The problem with the stem cell bill
The Boston Globe |  6 March 2005
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