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Stem cells from 'biological gold'

THE HEATED debate rages over whether it is ethical to conduct research on human embryonic stem cells. Opponents contend it is murder to destroy a human embryo to collect its stem cells for scientific endeavors; proponents argue that because stem cells are capable of differentiating into heart and nerve tissue, promising treatments for diseases will emerge via this research.

While a compromise between these philosophies eludes the American public, there is no doubt that stem cells have been transplanted into humans for the successful treatment of leukemia and other cancers, hereditary disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia.

The question arises: How can government-funded stem cell research flourish without crossing a moral line? The answer is simple. Instead of deriving stem cells from embryos, researchers can obtain them from umbilical cord blood. Umbilical cord blood stem cell research, although much less publicized than embryonic stem cell research, is a practical alternative.

Every child that is born has an umbilical cord. Most of the time, the umbilical cord blood is discarded as medical waste. This is unfortunate as umbilical cord blood is replete with stem cells and is thus "biological gold."

CAROL L. KORNMEHL, M.D.
Morganville, N.J. 

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