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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 April 2007, 01:05 GMT 02:05 UK
Senate defies Bush on stem cells
Scientists carrying out embryonic stem cell research
Opinion polls suggest most Americans back the research
The US Senate has voted to ease restrictions on using federal funds for stem-cell research, defying the threat of a veto by President George W Bush.

The Democrat-controlled Senate passed the vote with a majority of 63 to 24 - just short of the two-thirds required to override a presidential veto.

Mr Bush has said he will use his powers to veto the Senate's vote. He vetoed a similar draft bill last year.

Democrats argue that the restrictions are impeding vital medical research.

Upon taking charge of Congress last year, the party vowed to push for easing curbs on federal funding for stem-cell research.

Alternative bill

Stem cells are immature cells, created shortly after conception, which have the capacity to turn into any kind of tissue in the body.

Scientists hope to use stem cells taken from frozen human embryos to repair tissue affected by disease or injury.

STEM CELL TECHNOLOGY

Sources of stem cells

Key sources for stem cells are adult organs or embryonic cells

Adult stem cells

Adult stem cells are identified and separated from other cells

Embryonic stem cells

Embryonic stem cells are removed from 5-day-old embryos

Manipulation to form specialised cells

Cells are manipulated to stimulate them to take on a specific function

Uses for stem cells

Specialised cells may then be used to treat unhealthy areas

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"Not every day do we have the opportunity to vote to heal the sick," Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill said, describing it as "a noble cause".

Speaking before the vote, however, a White House spokeswoman said the president would veto the proposed bill because it "crosses a moral line that would use taxpayer dollars to destroy human embryos".

The process of extracting stem cells from an embryo destroys that entity; and conservative Republicans have likened the destruction of frozen human embryos to abortion.

Mr Bush imposed restrictions on spending government money on stem-cell research when he came to power in 2001.

He limited the offer of federal funds to research on stem-cell batches that were already available that August and ruled out funding work on fresh batches.

The president has instead offered to fund an alternative form of research which uses cells taken from amniotic fluid, placentas and from embryos that have died naturally.

The Senate passed a bill endorsing funding for such research later on Wednesday.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A Republican senator's hopes for the bill



SEE ALSO
New era as Democrats take power
04 Jan 07 |  Americas
Bush uses veto on stem cell bill
19 Jul 06 |  Americas
US Senate approves stem cell bill
18 Jul 06 |  Americas
Q&A: The US debate over stem cells
20 May 05 |  Americas

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