rcent when the questions were more specific, asking about stem cell research in particular, and about research aimed at developing treatments for human disease or for infertility, Lyerly said.
Among those surveyed, research proved to be the most desirable option for disposition of excess embryos, according to the study; other options, including donation to another infertile couple or destruction of the embryos, were far less desirable. Infertility patients proved more likely to support donating unused embryos to research than giving them to another couple or simply destroying them, possibly because they feel a responsibility to the embryos which actually precludes allowing them to develop into children to be reared by other people, or to be destroyed without benefit, Lyerly said. People undergoing fertility treatment may end up with anywhere from one to more than 20 unused embryos at the end of the process.
Stem cells have the ability to become any type of cell present in the human body, so it may be possible to use them in the future to treat many types of diseases, from autoimmune disorders to cancer, by generating healthy cells to replace damaged ones. Embryonic stem cells are more versatile than their counterparts derived from adults or from umbilical cord blood.
Currently, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is limited to research on stem cell lines derived from embryos before August 2001, and may not be used for any research in which an embryo is destroyed. Funding from private or state funding sources is growing, but is still insufficient, Lyerly said. President Bush has vowed to veto recent federal legislation that would loosen current limitations on stem cell research.
For these people, research may prove to be the most acceptable and morally preferable option, she said.
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