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Behind the curve, and ahead of it

We are assured that the whole Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is good for us - every bill is good for us, isn't it? It would be difficult for Parliament to advise us a bill is bad and then vote for it.

The bill is supposed to be in the greater interests of science, parents and children, though not unborn children, so it must be good for us. Though parts of the bill seem unnecessary, ethically questionable, and dangerous, and though experience has shown that being assured a bill is good for us ought to be met with scepticism, who would stand in the way of science or in delivering your £s to tech companies? In an effort to do some good, this government site has been promising money to UK and US researchers in "any aspect of basic or clinical stem cell research or therapeutics, including human embryonic stem cell research" since January 28, 2008.

The good news is that commercial science - science that proceeds if something works and makes money and discards what doesn't - has been discarding embryo stem cell research because the embryonic stem cells created nightmare scenarios of tumours and transplantation problems for patients. Instead they have been working with 1) umbilical cord blood-derived embryonic-like stem cells (CBEs), which resemble those from human embryos, but carry no ethical concerns, and 2) a patient's own stem cells, which will not be rejected. The stem cells are readily multiplied using new microgravity technology, and work very well. Researchers have been creating liver tissue using CBEs and nerve tissue using the body's versatile olfactory cells.

We leave it to you and to time to decide who is behind and who is ahead of the curve.

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