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8-Humans: Australia set to give green light for embryo research

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Australia Set to Give Green Light to Embryo Research
SOURCE: Reuters;jsessionid=
DATE:   Nov 10, 2002

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Australia Set to Give Green Light to Embryo Research

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia was expected this week to give the green 
light to controversial research on human embryos but only after a marathon 
debate in the national parliament and a barrage of attempted legislative 

The lower house in September approved a bill to allow about 70,000 spare 
embryos created for in-vitro fertility treatment to be used for stem cell 
research after one of parliament's most heated, emotive debates of recent 

The bill goes to the upper house Senate on Monday with the debate expected 
to take all week followed by a rare conscience vote. A less controversial 
bill banning human cloning was expected to pass the Senate unanimously.

Although opponents of embryonic research on Monday ramped up a last-minute 
campaign to block the move, a survey conducted by The Australian newspaper 
found at least 33 of the 76 senators would support the legislation with 
just 19 opposing the bill.

The newspaper said 24 senators were yet to make up their minds or were 
maintaining a public silence, although at least two of these -- left-
leaning Greens -- were almost certain to endorse the bill and thereby 
ensure its passage.

"My feeling is that there will be (majority support)," Health Minister Kay 
Patterson told reporters.

Advocates of the research believe embryonic stem cells could help find 
cures for illnesses such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, as well as diabetes 
and cancer.

But others argue that extracting the stem cells will kill the embryos, with 
no proof that this line of research will produce the coveted results.

"No cures from embryo research can be anticipated in the next few years and 
all such cures are merely speculative," argued one medical ethnical lobby 
group, Do No Harm, in a statement.

The issue of embryonic stem cell research has become one of the most 
emotive debates in Australia since parliament vetoed a state's euthanasia 
laws in the mid-1990s.

The proposed Australian law is midway between the restrictive U.S. 
approach, which limits stem cell research to cell lines from embryos that 
have already been destroyed, and more liberal British laws that allow 
embryos to be created for research.

Scientists, biotechnology firms and researchers threaten to take their work 
and investment offshore if the bill fails.

In Australia, BresaGen Ltd is leading research on stem cells which can 
transform into other types of human cell, offering the chance to regenerate 
damaged organs or tissue.


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