American pro-life groups, often associated with anti-abortion protests and crisis-pregnancy counseling, are intensifying their campaign against the use of human embryos in medical research.

In January, the Clinton administration began to form guidelines for federal funding of medical research that uses cells from discarded human embryos. The supply of excess embryos mostly comes from fertility clinics. In such research, the embryo is dissected and its stem cells cultivated. Stem cells develop into many varieties of human tissue. They are a critical component in the emerging field of regenerative medicine, which aims to use human cells to repair bone and tissue.

In 1995, Congress banned any re search on human embryos, but scientists tapped private funds for research using aborted fetuses or with embryos donated by parents. Under proposed new guidelines, federal funds could be used to finance research on stem cells. Yet the federal money could not pay for isolating and developing the embryonic stem cells, which currently requires destroying a human embryo. Opponents strongly object to such guidelines, saying they evade the congressional ban on embryo research and that the proposed research depends on destroying human life.

REGENERATIVE MEDICINE: The goal for stem-cell research is to develop specialized cells, which could be transplanted into patients. For example, people with Parkinson's disease have lost cells that produce dopamine, needed for normal functioning of the central nervous system. Future treatments may include restoring dopamine-producing cells to Parkinson's patients.

In a major medical breakthrough, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin last November announced that he had isolated a line of stem cells using ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.