By TIMBERLY ROSS, Associated Press Writer
Mon Dec 18, 9:34 PM ET
OMAHA, Neb. - Research on embryonic stem cells continues to ignite national debate over the beginning of human life. And with the Legislature likely to take up the issue in its next session, many worry that inaccurate information is being perpetuated by stem cell proponents and their counterparts.
Dr. David Crouse, who oversees some stem cell research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said both sides are "overselling wares."
The sentiment is shared by Chip Maxwell, executive director of the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research. That group supports stem cell research, but not the kind involving embryos.
Maxwell said he is all for the free flow of ideas but that information should have balance. "I hope that the whole picture is explained," he said.
From a scientific standpoint, stem cells are building blocks that can turn into different types of tissue, such as kidney or liver cells. Research is being conducted on two types of stem cells — adult and embryonic — in hopes that they can lead to cures for diseases.
Adult stem cells can be found in bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, among other sources. Embryonic stem cells are derived from human embryos in their earliest stages of development.
Embryonic stem cells in particular have made headlines, as scientists attempt to harness them to regenerate damaged organs or other body parts. They're essentially a blank slate, able to turn into any tissue given the right biochemical instructions.
But from an anti-abortion standpoint, human embryonic stem cell research is immoral, because isolating the cells destroys embryos, what some believe is the starting point of human life. Anti-abortion advocates cite the same argument in opposing abortion.
"The beef is that there is no question that embryos are destroyed in the harvesting of stem cells," Maxwell said. "Now you are destroying a human being."
Many scientists disagree. Crouse, who specializes in embryonic stem cells, said it boils down to a difference in perspective about when human life begins.