South Florida doctors ready to begin stem cell research

For more than a decade, Dr. Dalton Dietrich has worked in a lab at the University of Miami Medical School, trying to unlock the secrets of spinal-cord injury and paralysis.

He got a new tool Monday when President Barack Obama lifted a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Dietrich and other South Florida medical researchers hailed Obama's decision, saying it will speed their efforts to heal the human heart, help spinal cord injury patients and, someday, cure diabetes.

"I woke up this morning very excited," said Dietrich, scientific director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. "This will open whole new areas of human biology."

The praise wasn't universal, as opponents of embryonic stem cell research likened it to abortion.

"There are many human beings who consider an embryo a human being," said the Rev. Alfred Cioffi, a biology professor at St. Thomas University, a Miami Gardens college operated by the Archdiocese of Miami.

Obama lifted the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, imposed in 2001 by President George W. Bush. Bush did allow funding to continue for a few lines of embryonic stem cells that already had been created, but scientists said those lines were contaminated and could not be used in human trials.

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