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As it has so often in the past, California will break ground this autumn when voters are asked to approve a state-funded, multibillion-dollar facility to conduct embryonic stem cell research.

As highlighted by Ron Reagan last week at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, many believe stem cell research holds the potential for dramatic breakthroughs against a plethora of diseases, from juvenile diabetes to Alzheimer's. Reagan is a son of former President Ronald Reagan, who died June 5 in California after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's.

But experts say much of the high hopes for stem cell research are based merely on promise at this stage and question whether it is wise for a state bearing a crushing budget deficit to spend taxpayer dollars on such an endeavor.

The November initiative places the emphasis on embryonic stem cell research, which is controversial because it requires the destruction of human embryos. But research would be conducted on adult stem cells as well. Backers say this will be the first attempt to set up a state stem cell research facility through a... see more