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Families Say Cloning Embryonic Cells Saves Lives

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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CBS Minnesota (con't)

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By Esme Murphy, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bills that would ban human cloning are moving forward in the state legislature. The bills would also limit embryonic stem cell research and make cloning of embryonic cells illegal.

Emotions ran high as a group of families gathered at the capitol, arguing that cloning of embryonic cells has lead to breakthroughs that have saved lives.

Supporters of this bill point out that none of the patients whose families spoke out on Thursday got a treatment that involved embyonic stem cellls. And that is true.

But the families say it is the research on embyonic cells that have lead to breaktroughs, or potential breakthroughs, with adult stem cells.

Like in the case of 5-year-old Charlie Knuth, who had an adult stem cell transplant just three months ago.

Knuth was born with a rare skin disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa. Abandoned at birth, Knuth had sores all over his body and looked like a burn victim. Both outside and on the inside of his body, the skin falls off, blisters and bleeds.

Knuth was adopted as an infant. His mother, who spoke at Thursday’s press conference, had to give him baths of bleach and vinegar to prevent infection. After one bath she described how she broke down as her son kept screaming.

“When I tried to hug his ravaged body, I began to cry and at that moment, a 2-year-old child began to comfort me,” she said. “‘Mama, don’t cry, don’t cry mama, it’s OK.'”

A few months ago Knuth had a stem cell transplant at the University of Minnesota. He has been living at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis with his family since then.

His condition has improved dramatically. His skin is significantly better, he has only a few sores and for the first time ever, he can wear shoes and touch other people without fear or pain.

Knuth said that when he used to hug people his face would “fall off.” Now, he says that doesn’t happen.

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which supports this bill, point out that none of the research currently done at the U of M involves cloning of human embryonic cells.

But researchers said that could one day change.

Dr. John Wagner said that embryonic stem cell research presents the greatest hope for not just breakthroughs but actual cures for deadly diseases.

Still, supporters of the legislation say breakthroughs with embryonic stem cells are unlikely.

Republican Sen. Michael Jungbauer said during his argument on the Senate floor that science is too unpredictable.

“There won’t be any breakthrough,” he said. “Science is going different directions.”

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