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Bush Agrees to Fund Limited Stem Cell Research

President offers compromise on 'one of the most profound issues of our time'

President Bush said last night he would authorize the use of federal funding for medical research only on existing stem cells that have already been removed from human embryos.

Calling the issue "one of the most profound of our time," Bush said he would allow the use of tax dollars in this limited way because stem cell research held the potential for creating new cures for diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's to juvenile diabetes, according to this story from MSNBC.

"I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem-cell lines, where the life-and-death decision has already been made," Bush said.

"I have made this decision with great care, and I pray it is the right one,'' he added at the conclusion of his first nationally televised address.

There are about 60 "stem cell lines" in existence, according to the president. Stem cell lines are cultures of stem cells that have been grown in the lab from one original stem cell extracted from an embryo, the article says.

Depending on the point of view, embryonic stem cell research could be the first step on the road to curing diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer, or it could be the destruction of life.

Advocates for each position had been pressuring federal lawmakers, and Bush had been weighing for months whether to allow federal funding for such research.

During his presidential campaign, Bush had said he opposed federal funding of stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cells are the basic building blocks of all the tissues and organs in our bodies. They can be manipulated to develop into specialized cells that may be able to cure disease, proponents say. To harvest embryonic stem cells, however, an embryo must be destroyed. Stem cells can also be taken from adult bone marrow, but these cells have a more limited potential.

For a detailed description of how stem cell research works, see this primer from USA TODAY.

Many medical and patients' groups favor stem cell research, which they believe will one day lead to a cure for such diseases as diabetes, Alzheimer's and cancer, and other conditions, like spinal cord injuries. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Alzheimer's Association all support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Opponents include the Catholic Church and other pro-life groups. They say the harvesting of embryonic cells destroys life. The Pope feels so strongly about the issue that he had urged Bush not to pour federal dollars into the research, reports this article from USA TODAY.

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