The stem cell controversy isn't over.
Yes, scientists announced this week they can create new stem cells without killing embryos, seemingly resolving ethical questions that have sparked fierce opposition to such research.
But a Kansas University official said Wednesday the news means only that scientists have new avenues of research to follow. That doesn't mean older, controversial methods will be automatically abandoned.
"We need to be charging forward on all fronts," said Marcia Nielsen, assistant to the executive vice chancellor for health policy at KU Hospital. "One discovery ... is fantastic, but we shouldn't use that as a means to cut off other opportunities for science."
That will be a disappointment to opponents of embryonic stem cell research. One of the most fervent foes has been U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
His office this week declined to provide a statement from Brownback to the Journal-World. But the senator told UPI wire service he was hopeful the new discoveries would end the debate.
"It's going to take some steam out of this rapid march for destroying human embryos for stem cells because we've got another route you can go without destroying human life," Brownback said in a Wednesday UPI story.
Stem cells found in embryos are highly adaptable, with the ability to develop into many different types of cells needed by the human body. Scientists hope that some day they will be able to use the cells to treat Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses, including diabetes, Parkinson's, heart disease and multiple sclerosis, but federal funding for research has been restricted because research techniques required destroying embryos, considered by conservatives to be nascent human life.
Two new techniques - both tested in mice, but not on humans - created stem cells without destroying embryos, researchers reported Sunday in the journal Nature.
No one at KU or the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo., conducts embryonic stem cell research, though there are seven researchers doing projects on cells derived from umbilical cords and adults.
"We are so excited to hear about any breakthrough, at this point, when it comes to stem cells," Nielsen said Wednesday. "First and foremost, we're interested in finding cures for diseases. Every step that gets us closer is exciting."