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Stem cell research around the world

LONDON, England -- United States President George W. Bush has approved plans for stem cell research, sparking mixed reactions around the world.

Nine of the 15 European Union nations have banned stem cell research on embryos. Here is a list of countries involved in the research and their position on the issue:

BRITAIN:

In January, Britain became the first country to legalise cloning, which it did in order to allow scientists to create cloned embryos for stem cell research. Scientists can destroy donated fertility clinic embryos for stem cells and other research, and are allowed to create embryos by in vitro fertilization. Now, the new law allows researchers to create stem cells by cloning. All embryos involved in research must be destroyed after 14 days.

JAPAN:

The government approved guidelines last week for stem cell research, a move likely to allow Japanese laboratories to start studies on building tissue from embryonic cells by the end of the year.

The guidelines stipulate that embryonic cells used in research would be taken only from those made for fertility treatment that would otherwise be discarded. Research on cloning humans or creating sperm and ova is strictly banned.

ISRAEL:

There is no law regulating stem cell research in Israel and embryo destruction for stem cell research is allowed. Scientists announced this month that they succeeded for the first time in growing heart cells from human embryonic stem cells.

The heart cells can beat spontaneously, according to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. In 1999, a law was passed prohibiting cloning humans for five years.

AUSTRALIA:

In June, Australian federal and state health ministers agreed to draw up laws banning cloning nationwide, but they could not reach consensus on the issue of stem cell research. As a compromise, they agreed to consult with community and research groups before meeting again to develop a nationwide policy.

There are currently bans on cloning in three of Australia's six states and another two are considering legislation. However, all the legislation differs in its approach to stem cell research, which is legal in parts of the country.

CHINA:

Research on embryonic tissue is generally banned in China, according to the Chinese Health Ministry. However, the study of stem cells drawn from the umbilical cord and afterbirth is permitted. Chinese institutions are very aggressive in many areas of genetic research and regulation is somewhat lax.

SINGAPORE:

Stem cell research is ongoing in Singapore, according to Shirlene Sharmini, a spokeswoman at Singapore's National University Hospital. Earlier this year, the government appointed a panel of experts on philosophy, science and law to study ethical and moral questions regarding biotechnology research.

The government last year earmarked $500 million to promote what it calls "life sciences" research in the private sector.







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