80 U.S. Nobel laureates back stem cell research
February 22, 2001 01:54:00 AM ET
WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Stepping into a heated political and ethical
debate, 80 U.S. Nobel laureates have signed a letter to President George W.
Bush urging him to not block the first flow of federal grants for research
on human embryo cells, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The letter, to be faxed to the White House on Thursday morning, marks the
latest effort to influence the Bush administration as it decides whether to
fund experiments on embryonic stem cells, the Post said.
The letter comes three weeks before a National Institutes of Health
deadline by which scientists must apply for the agency's planned first
round of stem cell research grants, the report noted.
Researchers say stem cells, taken from frozen embryos that fertility
clinics were planning to discard, can one day cure a range of diseases from
diabetes to paralysis.
Opponents call the research immoral.
But, according to the Post, the Nobel laureates say in their letter to Bush
that given the cells' great therapeutic promise, it would be immoral not to
The letter was signed by such notables as James Watson, who won a Nobel in
1962 for co-discovering, with Francis Crick, the structure of DNA;
molecular biologist Hamilton O. Smith, who was a key player in the recent
landmark genome mapping effort by Celera Genomics (CRA) of Rockville. Md.,
and Edward Lewis, the California Institute of Technology biologist who
conducted seminal work on embryo development, according to the Post.
The letter was composed and circulated by Michael West and Robert Lanza,
two scientists at Advanced Cell Technology Inc., a biotechnology company in
Worcester, Mass., the Post said.
Opponents of the research, including Douglas Johnson, legislative director
for the National Right to Life Committee criticized the letter, the Post said.
"Just as war is too important to be left only to generals, the killing of
human beings in medical research is an issue too important to be left only
to scientists, even Nobel laureates," Johnson is quoted as saying.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has said he is reviewing
the Clinton administration's decision to fund stem cell research, the Post
© 2001 Reuters
Max More, Ph.D.
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