NORFOLK, Va. (AP) -- The first U.S. research institute to announce it was creating human embryos for the sole purpose of harvesting stem cells said Thursday it will stop the practice.
The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School drew protests from abortion opponents when it announced in July that it had fertilized donated eggs specifically for stem-cell research.
Dr. William E. Gibbons, chairman of the university's department of obstetrics and gynecology, said the institute still endorses stem cell research and that the decision wasn't simply a reaction to political pressure.
He said the scientist who started the research, Gary Hodgen, recently retired because of illness, and his replacement, Roger G. Gosden, is interested in stem cells but wants to concentrate on other areas.
''The Jones Institute has been among the pioneers in infertility and ES (embryo stem) cell research, although it is not currently planning to generate any new cell lines,'' Gibbons and Gosden said in a statement Thursday.
Gosden said he might still obtain
se would not constitute the taking of life.
Embryonic stem cells are the basic building blocks of the body from which the organs and other cells develop. Scientists hope to use them someday to treat Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other diseases.
Most embryonic stem-cell research is performed using fertilized eggs that were left over from in-vitro fertilization procedures. The Jones Institute, a private fertility clinic, was also responsible for the birth in 1981 of the nation's first test-tube baby.
Anti-abortion activist Keith Fournier, a Catholic deacon from Chesapeake who led a protest at the institute last summer, said he was pleased with the decision, saying ''EVMS has made the proper choice, scientifically and morally.''
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