President Barack Obama is overturning yet another policy of the Bush regime. This time, Obama will allow federal taxpayer dollars to finance embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. This is in fulfillment of his campaign promise to push more research to discover better treatments for illnesses ranging from paralysis to diabetes.
Like the late actor Christopher Reeve and former first lady Nancy Reagan, Obama supports the call to end restrictions on stem cell research budget. The executive order reverses Bush’s policy that was largely based on the moral belief that using embryos in creating additional stem cell lines was wrong and, thus, the government should not fund stem cell research.
Benefits of ESC research
ESCs are the most flexible type of stem cells. They can morph into other cell types found in the body. ESCs have enormous potential for use in medicine. American scientists hope to harness ESCs so they can make replacement tissues in treating various diseases, like new nerve connections to improve movement following a spinal injury, cells that could help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease or even Alzheimer’s, or insulin-producing cells for people with diabetes.
With Obama’s executive order, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has 120 days to set up new guidelines for human ESC research. The policy also authorizes NIH to support this work "to the extent permitted by law."
Critics of the new policy
However, some critics said that, instead of overturning his predecessor’s policy on stem cell research, the US president should instead focus on the ailing American economy. According to Rep. Eric Cantor, "Frankly, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research can bring on embryo harvesting, perhaps even human cloning that occurs. We don’t want that. And certainly that is something that we ought to be talking about, but let’s take care of business first. People are out of jobs."
Push for more research
The removal of funding restrictions may encourage more researchers to work on human ESCs. "We view what happened with stem cell research in the last administration is one manifestation of failure to think carefully about how federal support of science and the use of scientific advice occurs," said Harold Varmus, chairman of the White House’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.