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Survey: Most Americans support stem cell research

Human embryonic stem cell research holds the potential to treat, or even cure, many serious diseases. While lobbyists and politicians argue over its ethical implications and make unverified claims about public disapproval, a new study reports that the majority of Americans are actually in favor of embryonic stem cell research.

The study, published in June in Nature Biotechnology, was conducted by the University of Nevada at Reno. Researchers Mariah Evans and Jonathan Kelley surveyed a large representative sample of over two thousand Americans.

They found that more than two-thirds of respondents approved of using therapeutic cloning (nuclear transfer of a patient's own genes) and stem cells extracted from in-vitro fertilized embryos to treat serious diseases like cancer and heart disease. Federal funding for therapeutic cloning remains banned in the United States.

Over two-thirds of those surveyed also supported a newer, less-studied method that involves using modified adult cells instead of cells from embryos, if it could result in treatments for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Respondents were also asked about the use of stem cells for cosmetic treatments, such as restoring the youthful appearance of a patient's skin. For these cases, opponents outnumbered supporters by nearly two to one.

Human embryonic stem cell research, although scientifically promising, is politically controversial. Those supporting a ban on federal funding for stem cell research tend to rely on general religious or ethical arguments. Interestingly, this study showed that most respondents, rather than looking to their church or to government ethics committees, trusted their own judgments on these issues. The majority of the American public views stem cell research as a potentially valuable tool in the search for treatments or cures for many serious diseases. 

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