Aug. 10, 2001 (Washington) -- After months of consideration,
President Bush has announced that he will allow U.S. funding for studies on
embryonic stem cells, but only on more than 60 cell populations that he said
had already been removed from embryos in privately funded research.
The decision, Bush says, ensures that no taxpayer money will go
to research on cells not yet taken from embryos, since that requires the
destruction of the embryo and "its potential for life". At the same
time, he said, his compromise permits research on a field that scientists say
holds huge promise for breakthrough treatments and even disease cures.
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"Embryonic stem cell research offers both great promise and
great peril, so I have decided that we must proceed with great care," Bush
said. The President unveiled his decision in a prime-time evening TV address
from his Texas ranch.
Embryonic stem cells are unspecialized, self-renewing cells.
Scientists believe that they can multiply and manipulate the cells so that they
become brain, heart, pancreas, or many other types of cells.
Bush said that his decision "allows us to explore the
promise and potential of stem cell research, without crossing a fundamental
moral line, by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage
further destruction of human embryos." The embryos in question are about
five days old, and contain a total of about 50 to 100 cells. Their total size
is less than the head of a pin.
According to Bush, the stem cell funding issue "lies at a
difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the need to protect life in all its
phases, with the prospect of saving and improving life in all its
How much research the Bush plan would actually allow is not yet
certain. Although he spoke of more than 60 existing cell lines, or cell
colonies developed from that many embryos, there are discrepancies on the
actual number. For example, the NIH said in a June report that there were about
30 lines, and the National Health Council, an umbrella group of patient
organizations and other health groups, said that there were only about a
Regardless of the number, many patient groups and scientists
claim that limiting research to the existing cell lines isn't good enough.
Council spokesman Chris Paladino tells WebMD, "Scientists and researchers
are telling us that they need hundreds of cell lines."
According to NIH's June report, few studies have compared stem
cell lines, each of which carries a unique genetic profile. "It may be that
one source proves better for certain applications, and a different cell source
proves better for others," the NIH said.
Myrl Weinberg, president of the National Health Council, said
she was glad that Bush didn't ban all funding for the research, but was
"very sorry that [he] did not recognize the need for developing additional
stem cell lines, and that some life saving treatments may never be