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U.S. Sued Over Stem Cell Research

March 8, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A California adoption agency sued the government Thursday to block federal funding of controversial but promising medical research using embryonic cells.

Nightlight Christian Adoptions arranges for infertile couples to ``adopt″ embryos left over from other couples’ fertility treatments. The lawsuit opposes National Institutes of Health plans to fund research using certain embryonic cells _ arguing such research would cut the number of adoptable embryos and thus financially harm Nightlight and prospective parents.

At issue are stem cells, the building blocks for all human tissue. Scientists say research with them could lead to revolutionary therapies for diseases from Alzheimer’s to diabetes. They can be derived from aborted fetuses, fertility clinics’ discarded embryos or adults. All types are under intense study, but embryonic stem cells generate the most scientific excitement because they appear the most flexible.

Privately funded scientists have culled stem cells from embryos donated by parents _ a process that does destroy the embryo _ and multiplied those cells in a laboratory. The NIH plans to fund embryonic stem cell research using only lab-grown cell lines _ NIH scientists can’t touch additional embryos.

Many anti-abortion groups oppose the plans, and President Bush has signaled he may block the plans.

The lawsuit, also joined by an Indiana professor who contends competition with embryonic researchers will hurt funding of adult stem cell experiments, charges NIH’s policy violates a federal ban on taxpayer-funded embryo destruction.

The lawsuit names Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who is reviewing the NIH policy. An agency spokesman declined comment.

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