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Senate passes stem cell bill

ATLANTA - A philosophical dispute between two veteran senators Tuesday threatened to derail legislation encouraging adult stem cell research.

But after a lengthy debate, the Senate passed a bill creating a blood bank to accept donations of postnatal tissue and fluids rich in adult stem cells.

The measure, approved 39-15, now moves to the House.

The bill is similar to legislation pushed through the Senate last year by Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth.

The 2006 bill cleared the Senate. But after the House made some minor changes, the amended measure died the last day of the session before the Senate could take it up.

Shafer and Sen. David Adelman, D-Decatur, locked horns over language in the bill declaring adult stem cell research "nondestructive'' and research using embryonic stem cells "destructive.''

Their disagreement mirrors a national debate over embryonic stem cell research.

Many research advocates, including Hollywood celebrities and former first lady Nancy Reagan, argue embryonic stem cells hold more promise than adult stem cells in treating and curing a range of degenerative diseases.

On the other side are President Bush and pro-life groups, who object to any form of research that involves destroying embryos.

Adelman said "nondestructive'' is a pejorative term that would discourage promising research in Georgia using stem cells derived from days-old embryos discarded by fertility clinics.

"What's wrong with just calling it 'research'?'' Adelman asked.

Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said the bill as written would hurt the state's efforts to foster high-tech businesses.

"We are in fact sending a message to the biotechnical industry that Georgia is not going to be a friendly place to do world-class research,'' she said.

Shafer said nothing in his bill would prohibit any form of stem cell research.

But he said he limited the bill's impact to adult stem cell research to move it forward.

"We've lost a year setting up this blood bank,'' he said. "We should not load this up with research over which there is ethical controversy.''

Most senators sided with Shafer, defeating efforts by Adelman to take the references to "destructive'' and "nondestructive'' out of the legislation.

Shafer's bill is called "Keone's Law'' in honor of a young man from Gwinnett County who was cured of sickle cell anemia by a treatment discovered through research involving umbilical cord stem cells.