Stem Cell Research: Scientists Wait as Bush Decides
The scientific community says it is hopeful that Bush will end up upholding Clinton's decision to permit funding, but is fearful of the current climate.
Pioneering stem cell researcher John Gearhart, PhD, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, tells WebMD, "We're interested in federal funding, but we decided not to submit an application. If you're going to expend energies, you would like to know that there is at least the possibility of a good outcome. Currently, I think I would rather sit back and wait and see what the determination by Tommy Thompson and Mr. Bush is going to be."
Tony Mazzaschi, a biomedical research expert at the Association of American Medical Colleges, tells WebMD, "Until things are clarified, why go through the effort and hang yourself out there. There's a lot of fear of retribution, I'm afraid, from protesters."
According to Tim Leshan, director of public policy at the American Society for Cell Biology, "I don't know if the scientists have all been scared off, but I do think that there probably won't be as many applications as one might hope for, given the politics and given the reality of getting stem cells that comply with the NIH guidelines."
Meanwhile, opponents of the research say they are hopeful that Bush will stop it, even as they voice concern that he has not yet used executive authority to simply cut off the possibility of funding.
Gene Tarne, communications director for the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, tells WebMD, "President Bush had said during the campaign that he was opposed to this type of research. We were hoping that there might have been some administrative action to stop the government funding. We are somewhat disappointed that the action has not taken place yet, but we are still hopeful that there will be some action."
The coalition has a web site, www.stemcellresearch.org, which outlines objections to the initiative. The group argues that scientists should focus their research on stem cells found in adults, but researchers say that there isn't as much evidence there as with the embryonic cells.