More MS news articles for Jan 2002

French parliament debates bill allowing embryonic research{EAB42DB7-05EE-11D6-A789-00D0B7694F32}&VNETCOOKIE=NO

Associated Press Writer

PARIS, Jan 15, 2002 (AP WorldStream via COMTEX) -- French lawmakers opened debate Tuesday on a government-sponsored bill that would allow embryonic research to help the sick but maintain a ban on cloning.

The proposal by France's Socialist-led government, which will not be voted on for several months, would allow scientists to obtain stem cells from frozen embryos created during in-vitro fertilization. Researchers must seek couples' authorization to use embryos not implanted in the womb.

The bill specifies that research on the cells must be focused purely on treating ailments, not on cloning, and says scientists must first clear their research with a special government agency to be set up under the proposal.

Human embryonic research has been illegal in France since 1994.

The proposal would maintain a ban on any attempt at cloning embryos to create babies. It also would forbid so-called therapeutic cloning, where embryos are cloned for their stem cells and then destroyed.

Stem cells can develop into all sorts of specialized body tissue, and the hope is that they can be used as replacement tissue to treat a variety of ailments. But no one has found a way to harvest them without destroying embryos - a process that critics, including opponents of abortion, contend is immoral.

Conservative President Jacques Chirac has warned that therapeutic cloning could eventually lead to efforts to clone a baby. Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin supported maintaining the ban on therapeutic cloning in an effort to build a consensus on the bill.

Conservative lawmakers are expected to demand tougher restrictions.

Research Minister Roger-Gerard Schwartzenberg said the government's measures "would open the way for a medical revolution" and lead to new treatments for incurable diseases.

Many researchers believe that embryonic stem cells hold the promise of creating new organs or cells to replace or renew ailing hearts, livers and other organs. Some earlier laboratory studies have suggested that embryonic stem cells could be directed to transform into curative cells for such diseases as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or diabetes.

Copyright 2002, Bioresearch Online