The embryonic stem cell could hold the key to cures for diseases such as Parkinson's and diabetes. While politicians in the U.S. debate the ethics and funding of stem cell research, scientists overseas are taking the lead.
In this special four-part series, which originally aired Apr. 26-29, 2005, PRI's daily broadcast The World examines scientific progress around the world.
Part 1: Primer on Stem Cell Research
The World's Technology Correspondent Clark Boyd delivers a primer on stem cell research, chronicling its history in the United States. Since 2001, the federal government has funded embryonic stem cell research, but with strict limits. There are few restrictions, however, on research conducted in the private sector.
Part 2: Britain
For many years now in Britain, a governmental body has strictly regulated all work involving embryos. Clark Boyd turns his attention to Britain's Human Fertility and Embryology Authority, which some scientists consider a model for how the U.S. should regulate this field of research.
Part 3: China
China's stem cell program, like the Chinese economy, is moving ahead rapidly. The World's Mary Kay Magistad reports that Chinese research has strong support and heavy investment from the government, often with knowledge and experience picked up by top Chinese researchers in the U.S. Use of aborted fetuses does not raise much controversy in China's Confucian culture, where human life is seen to begin at birth, not at conception.
Part 4: Israel
Religious views play a role in Israel's stem cell program. The World's Aaron Schachter concludes the series by examining how the Judaic duty to care for the sick trumps ethical concerns over the rights of embryos created in the laboratory.