Government restriction is lifted for stem cell research funding

Mar 18, 2009

President Barack Obama has signed an order to lift restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, according to a prepared statement.

New York

-President Barack Obama has signed an order to lift restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, according to a prepared statement. The order would not fund the creation of new stem cell lines but would allow federally funded scientists to conduct research on existing stem cells that were off-limits under the George W. Bush administration.

President Obama said the full promise of stem cell research “remains unknown” but that it should be explored because of the potential for scientists to find better treatments for ailments such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer, according to the release, by creating replacement tissues from these “master cells” that can morph into any cell of the body.

“That potential will not reveal itself on its own,” President Obama said. “Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research.”

He cited broad bipartisan support for the order and issued a memorandum declaring that his administration would base its policies on sound science and not political considerations.

The issue remains controversial, however, because days-old embryos must be destroyed to obtain the cells. Opponents, therefore, argue that this type of research is morally wrong.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) accused President Obama of contradicting his pledge to be “president for all Americans” and said that he fully supports research on non-embryonic stem cells instead, according to the statement.

“Non-embryonic stem cell research is not only showing great promise in the laboratory, but its applications are already being used to treat scores of diseases and medical conditions. Indeed, science and respect for human life can coexist,” Boehner said. “Politicians in Washington would be well served to recognize this fact before they ask taxpayers to subsidize the destruction of human life simply to advance a particular agenda.”

Alternatively, Curt Civin, MD, who now serves as the founding director of the University of Maryland Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Baltimore, and whose research allowed scientists to isolate stem cells, said that he disagrees with the sentiment that stem cell research is morally wrong.

“This was already life that was going to be destroyed,” he said. “The choice is throw [the stem cells] away or use them for research.”

According to the issued release, Bush was the first president to authorize any support for embryonic stem cell research but limited it to the 78 known stem cell lines (groups of cells that can continue to reproduce in laboratory dishes) that were created before Aug. 9, 2001. Federal research money could not fund any research on stem cells derived after that deadline. Some scientists objected that the policy left them with too few lines to research, claiming that only 16 of the original 78 were suitable.

Hundreds more of such lines had been created over the years, and scientists say that the newer lines created after Aug. 9 are healthier and better suited for research. President Obama’s proposed changes do not fund creation of new lines nor specify which existing lines can be used, but they will allow scientists access to those newer lines and enable them to now apply for government money to fund the research instead of relying on private donations.

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