A broad coalition of Christians is joining a campaign to resist efforts to weaken the federal ban on funding of medical research on human embryos.

A National Institutes of Health proposal would change regulations so that federal funds could be used for research with stem cells derived from human embryos. The regulations would permit the funding of research as long as the money to kill the embryos is not from federal sources.

"There are better, more promising avenues to follow in order to continue our fight against some of the diseases," said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), describing the proposed research as "immoral, illegal, and unnecessary."

In July, the coalition released a comprehensive statement outlining its opposition to research using human embryos. The statement, "On Human Embryos and Stem Cell Research: An Appeal for Legally and Ethically Responsible Science and Public Policy" (www.stemcellresearch.org), was signed by 90 experts in law, science, medicine, and ethics.

The statement disputes recent claims that progress in stem-cell research requires the destruction of human embryos. Stem cells produce copies of damaged cells in order to repair body parts and systems. In recent years, scientists have isolated stem cells from human embryos and fetuses, umbilical cord blood, cadavers, and adult donors and used them to treat diseases. An estimated 100,000 live human embryos produced by in vitro fertilization have been left frozen in fertility clinics around the nation. The National Bioethics Advisory Commission is shortly expected to issue a final report, approving the use of the embryos to derive stem cells.

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