Brazil Congress Approves Use of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 3, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 3, 2005

Brasilia, Brazil ( — Brazil’s lower house of Congress has overwhelmingly approved allowing researchers in the South American country to use embryonic stem cells. Pro-life groups oppose such research because it involves the destruction of human life.

The House of Deputies voted 366-59 in favor of the embryonic stem cell measure. The proposal now goes to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to be vetoed or signed into law.

The measure allows scientists to use frozen human embryos that have been on ice for more than three years and are considered incapable of surviving.

Brazil’s Catholic Church officials strongly opposed the measure. They point to advances in adult stem cell research showing the measure unnecessary.

In November, Brazilian doctors who injected a stroke victim’s brain with adult stem cells from bone marrow plan to try the treatment in other patients after some initial hopeful signs.
Dr. Hans Fernando Dohmann told Reuters news service that doctors plan to go ahead with a research project involving 15 patients who will be injected with adult stem cells.

“What excites us most is that there is biological activity (in the area affected by the stroke) … that the injection of cells led to no electric disturbances in the brain, and there was no inflammatory reaction," Dohmann told Reuters.

The initial test subject was a 54-year-old woman who had suffered a stroke in August, leaving her without the ability to talk or move the right side of her body. After doctors injected the adult stem cells, she recovered her ability to move and began to speak again.

Other Brazilian doctors have used bone-marrow stem cells to treat severe heart disease.

As reported in the medical journal Circulation, researchers found "significant improvements in exercise capacity," improving oxygen capacity "from 17 percent to 24 percent in treated patients."

A similar result has already been reported in the U.S. using a patient’s own blood stem cells, as have other human experiments in France and Hong Kong.