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Center releases new public survey on stem cells

Stem cells are unique among human cells in that they possess the uncanny ability to develop into virtually any other cell of the body, offering a hypothetical tool kit for repairing diseased hearts, mending broken spinal cords, or correcting genetic diseases, among other hoped-for benefits. Stem cells derived from very early embryos show the most promise in research to date, but the embryo is destroyed in the process of acquiring the cells themselves. This outcome is not acceptable to individuals and institutions that believe human life at all stages of development deserves protection and should not be destroyed.

Much current debate focuses on whether other sources of stem cells - blood from the umbilical cord removed at birth, for example - might be as useful without the need to destroy embryos, but the scientific consensus so far is that embryos remain the best research choice. Typically, the embryos used are those remaining at the conclusion of fertility treatments that would otherwise be discarded or kept in frozen storage; a ban on the use of Federal funds to create new stem cells using these embryos currently is in effect, and various pieces of legislation pending in Congress would either extend this ban or relax it.

A survey of 2,212 Americans conducted September 9-19, reveals a public opinion landscape that bears little resemblance to the polarized, deep moral divide expressed on the floor of the Congress and in the op-ed pages of American newspapers.

The survey found wide support for embryonic stem cell (ESC) research that cut across political, religious and socio-economic lines, with two-thirds of respondents either approving or strongly approving of human embryonic stem cell research. Even Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians - long considered to be the most hard-line opponents of embryonic stem cell studies -- split evenly on approval for embryonic stem cell research.

Respondents were given a choice of four ESC re
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Source:Genetics & Public Policy Center, Johns Hopkins University


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