Gov. Charlie Crist said Wednesday he planned to recommend that lawmakers spend state money for stem cell research, but only the kind that doesn’t require the destruction of embryos.
Crist said he would recommend spending $20 million for a grant program to pay for studies that use cells culled from adults, umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women.
But he won’t recommend paying for the most controversial — and many say most promising — type of research on embryonic stem cells. Crist said he opposed that because too many people — including state lawmakers — oppose destroying embryos, which is required to do the studies.
Crist didn’t say exactly whether he approves of embryonic stem cell research himself.
“I know it gives angst for some. I think we can do it in a way that doesn’t cause that kind of angst,” Crist said at The Associated Press Florida Legislative Planning Session, a meeting of newspaper editors.
“I’m pragmatic … I want to be respectful of concerns that they might have,” said Crist, a Republican. “I also want to make progress.”
Two competing bills will be considered by lawmakers this year. One to be filed by Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, will mirror Crist’s proposal.
Another, filed by Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston, calls for spending $20 million on research that would include embryonic stem cell studies.
Researchers say the embryonic stem cells are promising in medical research because they have the ability to become any type of cell in the body. Crist on Wednesday noted new studies that show promise in amniotic stem cells.
Researchers reported earlier this year that the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells. But they also cautioned that the research was early and that the use of embryonic cells in studies should continue.
Using embryonic stem cells in research is legal — they typically are culled from fertility-clinic leftovers otherwise destined to be thrown away.
But there is little money available for the studies because the federal government has refused to pay for research using new lines of stem cells from embryos since 2001. Cells that were harvested before then can still be used, although many researchers say they are decreasingly useful.
Crist said his plan would allow for spending state money on those lines of stem cells that were in existence before the federal ban.
Crist planned to formally announce the proposal later Wednesday in Tampa..