May 22, 2024


More and more American celebrities are weighing into the stem cell debate as election day draws closer on November 7. In Missouri, St Louis Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan starred in an aired during Game 4 of baseball’s World Series. He was expressing his opposition to an amendment to the Missouri constitution which would allow therapeutic cloning. Joining him were former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, Mike Sweeney of the Kansas City Royals, actress Patricia Heaton and actor Jim Caviezel. In the ad, Suppan says, "Amendment 2 claims it bans human cloning, but in the 2,000 words you don’t read, it makes cloning a constitutional right. Don’t be deceived."

Suppan’s ad was a response to a powerful and controversial , who has early-onset Parkinson’s disease and endorses embryonic stem cell research as a way of finding a cure. It is painful to watch Fox make his point as his head and limbs jerk spasmodically. "Senator Talent [the Republican incumbent] even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us the chance for hope," he alleges. He tells voters that "what you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans. Americans like me."

The controversial commercial, which was aired in several states, prompted right-wing radio attack dog Rush Limbaugh to ridicule Fox, claiming that he had gone off his medication or was acting in order to generate more sympathy for the cause. Limbaugh later apologised.

In some states, voters’ views on stem cell research could determine the outcome of the election. Missouri is one of these, with Michael J. Fox supporting Democrat Claire McCaskill, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Governor James M. Talent. , the incumbent governor, Jim Doyle, has made therapeutic cloning a centrepiece of his campaign. He is telling voters that stem cell research will bring medical cures for dread diseases and an economic boom for his state. His opponent, Republican Mark Green, opposes embryo research but supports the use of adult stem cells.


British scientists claim to have grown the world’s first artificial liver by using cord blood stem cells. The technique, they say, could be used to test drugs within two years, to repair damaged livers within five years and to grow livers for transplant within 15 years.

Researchers at Newcastle University took blood cells from an umbilical cord. Then they cultivated them in a "bioreactor" — a machine developed by NASA to mimic the effects of weightlessness. This allows the cells to multiply more quickly than usual. Various hormones and chemicals coaxed the stem cells into turning into liver tissue. So far, tiny pieces of tissue, less than an inch in diameter have been created.

Ethically, the advantage of this line of research is that it does not involve the destruction of embryos. While it is good news both for opponents of therapeutic cloning and of testing drugs on animals, the research has not been peer-reviewed.