President Obama To Lift Restrictions On Stem Cell Research Funding

President Barack Obama is set to sign an executive order on Monday that will lift the restrictions on stem cell research funding that were put in place by former President George W. Bush in 2001.

The scientific community is thrilled with the decision, as the Bush restrictions severely limited the amount of research that could be done in order to study diseases such as Parkinson's disease. "This is what the patient community, the scientific community and the medical community has been asking for," Lawrence A. Soler of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation told the Washington Post,"We need to give credit to the administration for living up to their promise to keep politics out of science."

"This is huge," Amy Comstock Rick of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research agreed, "It is eight years overdue to have human embryonic stem cell research put back in place with other forms of research for patients in this country." Rick's organization was a major lobbying force behind overturning the Bush restrictions.

Bush imposed the restrictions in order to prevent scientists from destroying embryos—a necessary element in conducting embryonic stem cell research. Opponents of stem cell research have already come out to condemn Obama's decision, calling it "unethical." Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a Christian organization dedicated to "the promotion of marriage and the sanctity of human life in national policy" believes that lifting the restrictions is an insult to many Americans: "Today's news that President Obama will open the door to direct taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research that encourages the destruction of human embryos is a slap in the face to Americans who believe in the dignity of all human life," Perkins says, "It is unethical to use human life, even young embryonic life, to advance science."

Perkins believes that the use of adult stem cells is the better option, but as Rob Stein of the Post notes, "Many scientists say it remains far from clear which cells will ultimately lead to the most important advances, making it crucial to continue to study embryonic cells along with other types."

There will still be limits for scientists, however: federal funds can not be used to destroy human embryos, and scientists are still waiting to hear the details of the executive order in order to get a clear sense of what is and is not off limits, in terms of research materials. "I don't personally have any problem creating embryos for embryonic stem cell research," says Mark A. Kay of Stanford University, "But if he decides that embryos that have already been created and are going to be discarded are the ones that would be used, that would be reasonable as well. These things exist and are going to be discarded. It's really mind-boggling to me these things are going to be discarded and scientists haven't been allowed to use them to do research."

[Family Research Council]
Obama To Loosen Stem Cell Funding [Washington Post]