MU interim president opposes limits to stem-cell research in Missouri

Saturday, September 8, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A proposal to outlaw a form of stem-cell research narrowly endorsed by voters last year has drawn the ire of the University of Missouri's interim president.

The constitutional amendment proposed by the group Cures Without Cloning "assaults Missouri" and could "permanently destroy the future of research" at state universities and private labs, system leader Gordon Lamb said in a written statement released Friday.

"In their effort to eliminate somatic cell nuclear transfer research, the group championing this amendment is taking the first step to controlling and impeding Missouri's research agenda and potential for future research," the strongly worded statement said.

The experimental procedure involves injecting a human egg into a person's cell. The egg is then stimulated to grow as if it had been fertilized by a sperm. Scientists remove the resulting stem cells for research, destroying the newly formed embryo.

There's no indication anyone is Missouri actually is conducting such research. But proponents hope it could someday lead to treatments for such ailments as Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries.

The proposed measure, which needs roughly 200,000 voters signatures to appear on the 2008 ballot, would reverse a key portion of a state constitutional amendment approved in November by 51 percent of voters.

That amendment guarantees that any federally allowed stem-cell research, including somatic cell nuclear transfer, can occur in Missouri. It also criminalizes human cloning as defined by research supporters.

The new proposal, while not specifically repealing last year's measure, attempts to create a new definition for banned human cloning activities. It also would bar tax dollars from going to the disputed research, also known as therapeutic cloning.

"The university should never be subjected to this type of intrusion and control," Lamb said. "It is antithetical to the principles on which the university as a whole is founded."

Curt Mercandante, a spokesman for Cures Without Cloning, said the group is opposed to only one specific type of research.

"Our efforts are straightforward. We want a prohibition on human cloning," he said. "Nothing more, nothing less."

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