WASHINGTON, DC — The US debate on human cloning gathered steam this week, moving toward federal legislation that could affect both next fall's Congressional elections and the pre-eminence of US scientists in the worldwide race to turn research on human embryonic stem cells into a therapeutic revolution.

Testimony at a US Senate hearing on 5 March debated a bill proffered by Republican Senator Sam Brownback (Kansas) that would impose criminal penalties on all attempts at transferring a human somatic cell nucleus into a human egg, whether the purpose was to create an infant (usually called reproductive cloning) or to derive embryonic stem cells for disease research (usually called therapeutic cloning.) The US House of Representatives passed a similar total ban last year. Two other bills have also been introduced into the Senate; both would ban reproductive human cloning but permit therapeutic cloning.

Meanwhile, President Bush is expected to fill...

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