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StemLifeLine's CEO Ana Krtolica (photo by Michael Macor)

A San Carlos startup is offering to create "personalized" stem cells from the spare embryos of fertility clinic clients on the chance that the cells, frozen and stored away, may some day help a family member benefit from medical breakthroughs.

The novel business plan of StemLifeLine Inc. - which started promoting its service to fertility patients earlier this year as "insurance for the future" - set off a flash fire of protest from stem cell research opponents and supporters alike.

The outcry from anti-abortion groups wasn't surprising. StemLifeLine derives stem cells from very early stage human embryos, which are destroyed in the process. Opponents of the research see this as the moral equivalent of killing a child. This belief is the basis of the Bush administration's limits on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

But some of the most fervent denunciations of StemLifeLine came from vigorous supporters of embryonic stem cell research. Two Stanford University critics aired their complaints in newspaper editorial pages. A prominent Stanford ethicist challenged UC San Francisco scientists who are advisers of the company to... see more