Church of England 'Profoundly Uneasy' About Stem Cell Research

The Church of England remains "profoundly uneasy" about the use of human genetic material, "no matter how it is packaged," according to spokesman Steve Jenkins.

Meanwhile, British scientists have warned that an impending government decision that may ban stem cell research using animal eggs will jeopardise finding treatment and cures for degenerative diseases.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is to announce whether such procedures should be permitted on Thursday.

Experts at the HFEA, Britain's independent regulator of fertility and embryo research, will decide if this type of stem cell research falls within their jurisdiction, whether it is legal, and whether it should be allowed. The authority said it would not comment on the issue until a decision is made.

But the scientists involved say they have been informally told that the licenses are unlikely to be granted.

In a paper published last month by Britain's health department on proposed revisions to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology act, which covers stem cell research, the government proposed outlawing the creation of hybrid embryos combining human and animal genetic material. Current restrictions on this practice, according to the report, are based on public concerns.

Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted the government is not dead-set against the scientists' proposals. "If there's research that's going to help people, then we want to see it go forward," he said during a tour of a London hospital on Friday. He acknowledged there were difficult issues surrounding stem cells.

Britain has traditionally been a world leader in stem cell and cloning research. Similar research, creating human embryos from animal eggs, is currently under way in China and the United States.