Despite advances, stem-cell investors still wary

Australian scientists claim a world first by growing a human prostrate gland in mice using embryonic stem cells, shown here on a computer screen February 24, 2006.

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Congress has approved a bill easing restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. But the margin won't be enough to overcome the expected presidential veto.

Critics of the measure say using embryos to provide stem cells for medical treatments isn't necessary. Ironically, yesterday's vote came on a day of surprising new advances in that area. Here's Marketplace's Steve Tripoli.


STEVE TRIPOLI: Scientists have found a new way to generate non-embryonic stem cells, but so far only in mice.

Dr. David Scadden's a co-director at Harvard's Stem Cell Institute. He says this and other recent advances still can't replace embryonic stem cells.

DAVID SCADDEN: The other methods are ones that we hope to achieve, but we have no idea how long it'll take to accomplish that.

Meanwhile, patients with a range of illnesses might benefit from the embryonic research. Dr. Scadden wants to move forward with it.

SCADDEN: As a physician, the drive to do that is one that it only takes a day in the clinic to realize is an urgent one.

Right now, scientists use human embryos that are discarded by places like fertility clinics. Opponents fear the drive to use stem cells will encourage the use of embryos from other sources.

Backers of the research say federal funding's needed, because investors haven't been stepping up to the plate. The investors worry that stem-cell therapies won't be profitable for years.

I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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