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Isakson, Chambliss sponsor stem-cell legislation in U.S. Senate

Georgia politicians have already made the acronym HOPE popular in the Peach State, but now U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson wants the word to take on new meaning in national politics.

While HOPE is the name for a popular state tuition program, Isakson is using the term to represent a compromise to the stem cell research debate that takes morality out of the equation.

Isakson introduced the Hope Offered through Principled and Ethical Stem Cell Research (HOPE) Act. The Senate is scheduled to take up the matter this week, which would allow federal funding of research that does not harm embryos, but allows scientists to derive cells from amniotic fluid, placentas and from embryos that have died naturally.

Isakson's legislation was inspired in part based on research being conducted at the University of Georgia on three NIH-registered embryonic stem cell lines derived from embryos produced during the natural course of the in-vitro fertilization process but considered incapable of surviving in the womb or during the freezing process.

"It is absolutely possible to further embryonic stem cell research today without destroying a viable embryo and have a plethora of available stem cells for researchers and for scientists," Isakson said. "This bill is a common-sense approach that protects and promotes the health of human life from conception to natural death."

Isakson's colleague, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

"Many of us have personally benefited or have family members who have benefited from the advancements made in modern medicine over the past five, 10 or 20 years," Chambliss said in a speech on the Senate floor. "I think we are all grateful for the progress that has been made. It is my most sincere hope that we continue to see monumental steps made in medical research, stem cell and otherwise, and that we find cures for those suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer, multiple sclerosisand spinal cord injuries."

Senators will consider another bill this week that would allow the potential destruction of viable embryos, but similar legislation was vetoed by President Bush.

Isakson said he plans to vote against that legislation this week, because he feels it is wrong to federally fund research that potentially destroys human life when there is an alternative method of research that avoids the moral dilemma.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.