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Bush undecided on stem cell funding

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has not decided whether to allow federal funding for stem cell research, despite a letter from 80 Nobel laureates urging him to do so.

"It's under review at HHS," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, referring to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees how federal research money is spent. "Any decision will follow the HHS review."

The letter was faxed to the office of White House Chief of Staff Andy Card Wednesday morning, one of its signers said. McClellan could not confirm, however, that the president had seen it.

The letter urged Bush to allow federal funding for stem cell research on the grounds that it is "essential" to finding treatments for a range of diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, ALS, arthritis and spinal cord injuries. The letter also mentioned the possibility that stem cells could be used to create organs, including "entire hearts."

"[I]t would be tragic to waste this opportunity to pursue the work that could potentially alleviate human suffering," the letter read.

The anti-abortion community has opposed the research since stem cells come from human embryos or from fetal tissue obtained from terminated pregnancies.

The White House said that it was looking at all parts of the debate.

"The president understands the strong emotions on all sides," McClellan said. He added that the review would consider the ethical and legal implications of stem cell research.

Bush must decide whether to go ahead with grants for stem cell research by March 15, the deadline set by the National Institutes of Health to receive applications from scientists for research projects.



RELATED STORIES:
Politics, science, morality of stem cell issue
July 18, 2001

RELATED SITES:
NIH: Stem Cell Information
MEDLINEplus: Stem Cells/Stem Cell Transplantation

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