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A California biotechnology company says it has developed a way of extracting stem cells from human embryos without destroying the embryo, a potential solution to the political and ethical impasse holding back the cutting-edge science.
A spokesman for President Bush said the new method doesn't resolve ethical concerns about the use of human embryos for research, but called it "encouraging" to see scientists "make serious efforts" to move away from research involving their destruction.
Embryonic stem cells are considered the key to regenerative medicine, often touted as the future of health care. Typically retrieved from 5-day-old human embryos, they can morph into virtually every kind of tissue — versatility scientists hope one day will provide a source of replacement parts for organs involved in disorders such as diabetes and Parkinson's.
"If there weren't such political controversy about embryonic stem cell research, this wouldn't be a great step forward," said Rick Wetsel, a stem cell researcher at UT-Houston's Laboratory for Developmental Biology. "But as far as I'm concerned, anything that might bring opponents on board and overcome this impasse is a good thing."