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Video: Politics at heart of stem cell matters

  1. Transcript of: Politics at heart of stem cell matters

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Interesting story. The Justice Department announced late today it will appeal yesterday's court ruling prohibiting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research . That ruling left a lot of researchers fairly stunned. The director of the National Institutes of Health said it, quote, "pours sand into the engine of discovery." For now much of that research remains on hold. We get more from our chief science correspondent Robert Bazell .

    ROBERT BAZELL reporting: Dr. Chuck Murry is in the delicate business of rebuilding severely damaged hearts and has tried adult and embryonic stem cells in his efforts.

    Dr. CHUCK MURRY (University of Washington Medicine): We're very pragmatic. Whatever works best for us.

    BAZELL: What he has accomplished with embryonic stem cells is remarkable: making new heart muscle cells that beat in laboratory conditions. So these are heart cells that are beating, and they were made from embryonic stem cells ?

    Dr. MURRY: Exactly. Within a period of about two weeks, we can transform them from these flat little cells that just sit on the bottom of the dish to vigorously beating heart muscle .

    Unidentified Woman: This is a echo of your old heart.

    BAZELL: And this team at the University of Washington has already started injecting cells into people.

    Mr. DICK MONTGOMERY: Is that the valve there going up and down?

    Woman: This is the valve.

    BAZELL: Like Dick Montgomery , while he was awaiting a heart transplant .

    Dr. MURRY: They can become any of two hundred and some odd cell types in the body.

    BAZELL: Because of yesterday's court ruling , this research supported by federal money might have to stop by the end of the year. Scientists say much will be lost.

    Dr. ARNOLD KRIEGSTEIN (University of California, San Francisco): This really appears to me a very backwards step at a moment in time when we, the scientists and the public at large, are anticipating some significant advances in stem cell biology.

    BAZELL: Congress has decreed that federal money can't be used to destroy embryos, the first part of making embryonic stem cells . President Obama and his two predecessors said that once the cells were removed, government money could be used to work on them. Groups supporting the ruling say the judge was just following the letter of the law .

    Mr. DAVID PRENTICE (Family Research Institute): You can't part out the research. Embryonic stem cell research relies on destruction of human embryos, and so we're pleased with the ruling.

    BAZELL: The ruling does not affect privately funded research, but many scientists say without federal funding it will take much longer to learn the lifesaving potential of embryonic stem cells . Robert


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