U of M says cloning ban would have chilling effect on research

The University of Minnesota says a cloning bill introduced this week at the Legislature is an attack on embryonic stem cell research.

Most of the language in the bill deals with banning human cloning. The university does not object to that portion of the proposal.

But a phrase in the bill could be interpreted as a ban on embryonic research that creates new organs and tissues, according to Mary Koppel, assistant vice president at the university's Academic Health Center.

"There seems to be this underlying premise that embryonic stem cell research -- there's some sort of creation of embryos taking place at the university. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not do that. And that's where this legislation is going," said Koppel.

If the bill is passed, Koppel says Minnesota would be the only state in the nation to ban embryonic stem cell research.

The research of being conducted at the university by Dr. John Wagner doesn't involve the use of embryonic stem cells. But he says his research on a rare skin disease greatly benefits from his colleagues' experiments with embryonic stem cells.

"What we want to make sure of is that this legislation doesn't interfere with work that has life-saving capabilities with embryonic stem cell lines," said Wagner.

Wagner says if the bill passes without changes, it's possible that he and others at the university would consider moving their research out of Minnesota.

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