- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Medical researchers say support for embryonic-stem-cell research will be advanced after Tuesday’s narrow victory of a state constitutional amendment in Missouri allowing such research.

Democrats benefited from the issue in some congressional midterm races, in which their party won back control of the House of Representatives and might take control of the Senate.

“Obviously, we are heartened by the outcome in Missouri. Any time the public moves toward allowing science to progress on its merits, we all benefit,” said B.D. Colen, spokesman for the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

Opponents of embryonic-stem-cell research say passage of Missouri’s Amendment 2 was a big loss for them, but they point out that the results were “very, very close” (51 percent yes; 49 percent no), despite the fact that supporters outspent them $31 million to $1 million.

The numbers show that many people still have questions about the morality of using embryonic-stem-cell research, which requires the killing of human embryos to fight diseases, said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council.

The council and other conservative groups point out that there are no such deaths when adult stem cells are used and have pushed for embryonic-stem-cell research to be abandoned in favor of research using adult stem cells or cord blood.

Opponents of Missouri’s Amendment 2 — which also included the Catholic Church, the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Christian Medical Association — convinced many Missourians that it was “not a stem-cell initiative, but a cloning initiative,” Mr. McClusky said.

Amendment 2 prohibits Missouri officials from banning embryonic-stem-cell research or any federally approved research in that state.

By approving the amendment, Missouri joins the ranks of at least five other states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey — that have encouraged embryonic-stem-cell research or set aside money for it. In California, however, lawsuits are challenging the legality of the state fund, designed to create $300 million yearly in grants.

Critics of embryonic-stem-cell research charge that it has not been shown to cure any serious human diseases, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. They say adult stem cells, in contrast, have been shown to treat a variety of human disorders.

Most of the funding to get the amendment passed came from Jim and Virginia Stowers, a billionaire couple who survived cancer.

Observers said conservative groups waged a strong opposition campaign inside the state in recent weeks, which reduced the measure’s popularity.

Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said yesterday that embryonic-stem-cell research proved to be a “significant” issue that aided Democrats Tuesday.

In Missouri’s Senate race, Mrs. Feinberg said, Democrat Claire McCaskill’s support for embryonic-stem-cell research helped her defeat Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Talent, who opposed it.

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