The world’s first embryonic stem-cell bank opened in Britain Wednesday, breaking new ground in one of the most controversial areas of medical research.

The bank will store and supply stem cell lines — strings of identical cells — for research and possible treatment of conditions like diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Its store of cell lines is expected to number tens of thousands.

But opponents say such research involves the “wanton creation and destruction of human life” and have condemned the bank as a storage site for dead babies.

Stem cells are master cells in the body that have the capability to transform into new cells or tissue.

They can be taken from adults and discarded umbilical cords but those from embryos are considered especially powerful because each one has the potential to become any sort of cell or tissue in the body.

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