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Cell might sub for embryonic stem cells

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a cell found in amniotic fluid of pregnant women has many of the same traits as embryonic stem cells, the Washington Post reported.

The cells are able to grow into brain, muscle and other tissues that could be used to treat diseases, researchers said, and are easily retrieved during routine prenatal testing.

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They are easier to maintain in laboratory dishes than embryonic stem cells, which come from destroyed human embryos.

President George W. Bush last year vetoed a bill that would have permitted federal funding of research on some embryonic stem cells. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote this week on similar legislation, the Post said.

Amniotic fluid cells grow as fast as embryonic stem cells, said study leader, Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Atala and other scientists said they doubt the cells will make embryonic stem cells irrelevant.

"There's not going to be one shoe that fits all," said Robert Lanza, scientific director at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass.

Harvard stem cell researcher George Daley said the new cells "are not a replacement for embryonic stem cells."

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