Stem-Cell Decision Due by Early September

Bush Considering a Theoretical Option

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WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 5, 2001 ( U.S. President George W. Bush said he would make a decision by early September on whether to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

«There´ll be a decision before Congress comes back,» he told reporters Saturday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican, is hoping to have found a possible compromise on the issue over embryonic stem cell research.

Bush administration aides met last week with Bartlett to discuss his claims that the stem cells used in scientific research could be «cleaved» from the embryo in a way that would allow the embryo to «re-form» and, possibly, still be implanted in a woman´s womb, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

The ability to cleave cells while preserving the embryo is an untested theory, however.

Bartlett is a former physiology professor at the University of Maryland and a one-time researcher at the National Institutes of Health.

What Bartlett proposes is that a small part of a days-old embryo could be carved away before the embryo is implanted in a woman´s womb. Stem cells would be taken from the cleaved portion of the cell cluster. The remaining embryo then would be allowed to rejuvenate and, maybe, be implanted.

However, even the researchers Bartlett consulted before advancing his plan caution that the technique is only «theoretically possible.» No one has taken stem cells from a human embryo without destroying it.

The technique also raises ethical questions of its own, scientists said. Many embryos likely would have to be destroyed while the technique is being developed and perfected, they said, and no one knows how an embryo rejuvenated after cells have been cleaved away would progress in the womb.

«Who is going to take the chance to find out?» asked one source at the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, the United Methodist Church has urged one of its best-known members, President Bush, to maintain a moratorium on government-aided stem cell research using human embryos, the Associated Press reported.

It joins the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod in opposing embryo-destructive research.

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