Obama Ends Curbs on Stem Cell Research
President Removes Funding Limits on Use of Embryonic Stem Cells
WebMD News Archive
March 9, 2009 -- President Barack Obama signed an order Monday opening up
federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, clearing the way for
scientists to conduct broad experiments on the cells using taxpayer
By signing an executive order, the president overturned a
seven-and-a-half-year-old Bush administration policy that restricted federal
funding to fewer than two dozen cell lines already derived at the time. Bush
had said the limits would stop taxpayer dollars from going to research that
required destroying human embryos as a source of stem cells.
Before signing the order Monday in the East Room of the White House, Obama
said the Bush policy had forced "a false choice between sound science and
Though he acknowledged "a difficult balance" between the moral and
scientific issues of embryonic stem cell research, Obama said the research must
"Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result
from painstaking and costly research, from years of lonely trial and error,
much of which never bears fruit, and from a government willing to support that
work," he said.
Embryonic stem cells have the ability to become any type of cell in the
body. Scientists believe that makes them ideal candidates for developing
potential treatments for diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and other ailments.
Researchers are also pursuing ways to reprogram adult stem cells to behave
like embryonic cells. Adult stem cells are found in adults and children and can
be collected without harming the donor.
Reaction From Supporters and Critics of Stem Cell Research
The president thrilled embryonic research supporters with Monday's executive
order. "It's very exciting," says Ian McNiece, PhD, director of the
Cell Therapies Program at the University of Miami's Stem Cell Institute.
McNiece says the 22 or so stem cell lines eligible for federally funded
research under the Bush administration's policy were of only limited utility
because of contamination and other issues.
"They would never have been suitable for therapies that would go back
into patients," he tells WebMD. "Now we can pursue treatments that can
be directed toward clinical trials and ultimately patient use."
But the order inflamed critics, who believe the research is immoral because
it usually requires destroying human embryos as a source of stem cells.
"It is categorically wrong to fund unnecessary and immoral research that
destroys human embryos," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who chairs the House
Republicans Conference, in a written statement. "It's unfortunate President
Obama has chosen to support the empty promises of embryonic stem cells despite
the living hope available in adult stem cell research."
The president's decision is unlikely to end the debate over stem cell
research. Supporters said Monday they would soon pursue legislation to codify
Obama's order. "It's so that the research isn't victim to a game of
political ping-pong," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., a main sponsor of
congressional efforts to expand the research.