November 09, 2008

Ban on Stem Cell Line Development May End

I was in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on the day that Dubya came on the airwaves and announced that the development of new stem cell lines was to be banned in the United States. He did this by executive order, a sort of edict open to presidents that Bush exploited to an extent unprecedented in American history. In any case, I remember where I was when the Dubya delivered his proclamation because it was a big deal to me at the time. It still is.

President-elect Barack Obama's transition chief said Sunday the incoming administration is looking to reverse President George W. Bush's executive orders on stem cell research...

Bush has limited federal spending on stem cell research, a position championed by opponents of abortion rights. Obama has supported the research in an effort to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's...


It comes as good news, then, that Dubya's executive order is under review by the incoming administration. While it's not a done deal yet, Obama has stated in the past that he favored expanding stem cell research. If he comes through and reverses the standing executive order after taking office, the result could well be a boon not only to the treatment of injury and disease in the long run, but to American competitiveness in biotechnology in the short run. We've been losing out on both of these fronts for the sake of preserving discarded, frozen embryos for seven years now. Luckily, the research has continued in other countries and much of it is a matter of published record.

Change may really be coming. Whether this change will amount to an increase in funding for research limited to working on the few permissible (and far from the best) stem cell lines allowed under the Bush restrictions, or whether there will be the opportunity for the development of new stem cell lines is unclear to me. I suspect it will be the latter, though, if the incoming administration is honestly dedicated to letting research in the area advance.

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