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CNN Today

Stem-Cell Research Could Lead to Parkinson's Cure

Aired September 14, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with one of the biggest medical controversies of our time: using stem cells from embryos to grow spare body tissue to try and help save people's lives. Today, some Hollywood celebrities with a lot at stake urged Congress to act.

We get more from CNN medical correspondent Eileen O'Connor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Emmy- award winning actor Michael J. Fox pleaded with Congress to allow federally funded researchers to experiment on stem cells derived from frozen human embryos due to be discarded from in vitro fertilization clinics.

Fox says such research could lead to a cure for his devastating Parkinson's Disease.

MICHAEL J. FOX, PARKINSON'S RESEARCH FOUNDATION: This research offers a potential to eliminate diseases, literally save millions of lives.

O'CONNOR: Stem cells are blank cells that can form any kind of tissue in the body. Doctors hope, eventually, to use those cells to create an unlimited source of spare body parts.

Actor Christopher Reeve thinks stem-cell research will allow him to walk again. Fox hopes they can replace damaged nerve cells in the brain.

FOX: Every day finds that a person with Parkinson's is getting closer to total loss of independence or slipping slowly through -- toward the progressive inevitably of this disease.

O'CONNOR: The controversy surrounds the source of such stem cells. Medical researchers say those with the most potential are found in either aborted human embryos or leftover frozen embryos created in fertility clinics.

Critics say federally funded scientists should not be allowed to conduct research using stem cells from these sources, saying it is tantamount to the government taking one life for another.

JUDIE BROWN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN LIFE LEAGUE: As deeply concerned as we are about the treatment and cure of disease, we don't believe that the average American wants to see tiny, embryonic boys and girls, little children, used as experimental material.

O'CONNOR: Leading researchers say denying federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells has held back research that could have led to cures for diabetes and heart disease.

RICHARD O. HYNES, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR CELL BIOLOGY: Using embryonic stem cells for life-saving research is greatly preferable to discarding them.

O'CONNOR (on camera): Researchers argue it could also be seen as unethical to throw away embryos without conducting this kind of life- saving research; and, they say, with federal funding comes oversight -- oversight that could be designed to prevent a market in frozen embryos.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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