Embryonic stem cells are unique because they have the potential
to develop into any type of tissue or cell in the body.
Many scientists believe research into such stem cells could help
find treatments or cures for such conditions as spinal cord injuries,
Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease
cells are the product of in-vitro (literally, "in glass")
conception -- when human sperm and egg are mixed outside the mother's
When a couple who has had trouble conceiving a baby tries in-vitro
techniques, some embryos are transferred to the woman's body in
the hopes that the embryo will result in a healthy baby. The technique
has resulted in over half a million so-called test-tube babies
since the first successful implantation in 1978.
But often more embryos are created than used. Some are frozen,
so that the couple can use them later if they want to.
Supporters of the House bill argue that couples who created embryos
for fertility treatment should be able to donate them to science.
you have informed consent, if these embryos are going to be discarded
anyway, why not be able to use them for ethical research that
could cure diseases that affect tens of millions of Americans?"
Democratic Representative Diana DeGette from Colorado a cosponsor
of the bill, told the NewsHour.
But embryonic stem cell research is controversial because harvesting
the cells destroys an embryo that could have grown into a baby
if implanted in a woman's uterus.
It is "morally wrong to take the tax dollars of millions
of pro-life Americans and use it to support research that they
find morally offensive," Republican Representative Mike Pence
from Indiana told the NewsHour.
The House also passed a less controversial measure, which would
encourage research on stem cells taken from donated umbilical
cord blood. The House passed that bill by a 431-1 vote.