State Legislature passes bills including restrictions on stem cell research

by Kyle Potter

The Minnesota Senate passed a bill Tuesday afternoon that includes a ban on state or federal funds being used for certain types of stem cell research. Hours later, the state House of Representatives passed a bill with the same restrictions.

Sandwiched in the Senate’s omnibus appropriations bill for higher education is an amendment that prohibits such funding being used for human cloning. But the language of that ban includes somatic cell nuclear transfer – a technique that can be used for the creation of stem cells.

The amendment states:

“For the purposes of this section, ‘cloning’ means generating a genetically identical copy of an organism at any stage of development by combining an enucleated egg and the nucleaus of a somatic cell to make an embryo.”

SCNT is a procedure in which the DNA from a patient’s cell is implanted into an unfertilized egg. That egg is coaxed to develop into a blastocyst, a ball of cells that forms approximately five days later. Part of the blastocyst is then removed in order to grow embryonic stem cells. It is the first step in the cloning of a human, called “reproductive cloning.” Cloning for medical use is called “therapeutic cloning.”

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are concerned about the possible impact this legislation may have on therapeutic cloning.

A similar amendment was quickly added to the higher education funding bill in the House. That amendment exempts use of funding for medical research.

Any differences between bills from the two legislative bodies will be hammered out before the bill is finalized and sent to Gov. Mark Dayton for approval.

But in a letter to House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch from Monday, Dayton promised he would veto any funding bills that include policy matters like this.

“If I reject those items, and therefore the bills containing them have to be returned for separate passage, those delays will be the Legislature’s responsibility, not mine,” Dayton wrote in the letter.

Check Thursday’s Minnesota Daily for more information.