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Harvard Stem Cell Studies Raise Eyebrows

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (search) — a Republican and abortion opponent — is vowing to veto a bill that will give scientists more freedom to conduct embryonic stem cell research in the state.

The bill could be ready for him as early as this week. State lawmakers say they have enough votes to override the expected veto.

Under current state law, scientists interested in conducting stem cell research need the approval of the local district attorney. The bill would remove that requirement, give the state Health Department some regulatory controls and ban cloning for reproductive purposes.

Romney supports research using adult stem cells or leftover frozen embryos from fertility clinics, but opposes the creation of new embryos.

To scientists, embryonic stem cell research (search) heralds the birth of new frontiers in medicine, but it's not without controversy.

Citing moral issues over the use of fertilized human eggs, the Bush administration has banned further federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Now, in a move to circumvent those restrictions, Harvard University has announced a $100 million initiative to bring researchers together to unlock the mysteries of cells with the potential to produce healthy tissue.

For David Scadden of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (search), it's good news.

"Stem cells offer the possibility of reversing damage, and that's hugely valuable," he said. "It would be a way to approach problems for which we currently have no approach."

Hoping to clarify state law, Massachusetts legislators overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday night to allow stem cell research, but with the provision that embryonic cells (search) be gathered from fertility clinics only.

Those who believe life begins at conception were disheartened at the vote, saying there are other alternatives.

"Science does not have to kill in order to cure because we have an alternative available, and that is adult stem cells (search)," said Mary Parker of the Catholic League.

Scadden and other researchers agree that adult cells are useful, but they say embryonic cells have the capacity to make cells that adult ones can't.

Embryonic stem cells are derived from human embryos that are typically no more than a few days old. Some researchers see almost unlimited potential in those cells, which go on to develop into every kind of cell in the body, including liver cells and muscle.

Scientists hope one day to take an adult cell from someone suffering from a disease, remove the nucleus, transplant it into an egg, induce the egg to begin dividing, and use those stem cells to create a tailor-made cure and treatment for that individual.

Click on the video box above for a complete report by FOX News' Julie Banderas.