By John Connolly

ROMEOVILLE, Illinois, December 24, 2007 ( – Using the new pluripotent stem cell research breakthroughs as leverage, the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI) has begun a push to end state-funded embryonic stem cell research through the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute.

The CCI, the public policy organization for the Illinois Catholic Bishops, has fought since 2003 to pass legislature blocking state funding for research that uses human embryos. The new push is based on the recent discovery that scientists can use human skin cells to simulate the flexibility of stem cells. The CCI is one of many pro-life groups using that breakthrough in an attempt to block embryonic stem cell research on the grounds that it is no longer ‘necessary.’

“Human embryos should not be used in any type of research, and that should be in the law,” said Zach Wichmann, CCI associate director of education, in an interview with the Catholic Explorer. “We think now that science has progressed to a point where it seems that embryonic stem-cell research is no longer necessary – that we can ban that procedure.”

Following the defeat of a stem cell funding bill in 2004, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich began funding the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute by means of an executive order without approval from the Illinois General Assembly. The Institute funds grants for both adult and embryonic stem cell research, as well as human cloning research.

While Wichmann stressed the fact that CCI does not oppose the funding of adult stem-cell research, he still said that getting legislation introduced to change the funding situation will be easy compared with the task of getting it passed.

“It’s not something that is going to happen overnight,” he said. “It’s going to take time and a lot of discussion and a lot of work, no doubt.”

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