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Voters Approve Controversial Stem Cell Measure

Political experts are still analyzing the messages U.S. voters sent to candidates Tuesday night. But one measure which narrowly won in the Midwestern state of Missouri has caught everyone's attention. By a slim margin, voters in Missouri approved an amendment to the state's constitution permitting stem cell research.

Missouri voters were almost evenly divided on the issue, but on Election Day the ballot proposal carried 51 to 49 per cent. The amendment to the state's constitution will open the way for research in which human embryos are cloned and stem cells are removed from them. The stem cells are then developed as tissue, which would be used in research for a cure and treatment of diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's.

Religious groups have vehemently opposed this research, saying it destroys human life. But a coalition of medical groups and advocates for patients with some of these incurable diseases have supported it.

Geneticist Saul Honigberg of the University of Missouri says fears that stem cell research would lead to human cloning are baseless. "There is nobody in Missouri that is interested in cloning human beings. What motivates real scientists, not scientists in Frankenstein movies, is figuring out how things work and helping people who have serious health problems."

The amendment was also supported by business and research groups, who believe stem cell development could mean millions of dollars in technological investment in their state.

The mayor of Lee's Summit, Missouri, Karen Messerli, had this reaction: "The impact in terms of economic development is going to be strong. It's going to be proven and it's going to be something that as a state, and as individual communities, we are glad that passed."

Missouri becomes only the second state in the U.S., after California, to approve stem cell research. Expansion of stem cell technology could begin as early as 2008.