Sunday, March 8, 2009

Researchers waiting for Obama to sign order to reverse Bush policy on stem cell research

This is one issue that transcends over both party lines. Using unwanted and eventually thrown out embryos to research for possible treatments for Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, spinal cord injuries, etc.

This is where President Bush lost me. This country has been founded on believing in science and technology, being the first for inventions and cures, for Bush to just totally deny what stem cell research can possibly do and to help in many ailing diseases just baffled me. This is where the rubber met the road and where Bush went hard right to the Christian Conservatives.

Religion has no place in governing and making decisions for people of this country, none. There is a reason why the founding fathers wrote about separation of church and state. For the past 8 years, I guess the Bush Administration did not understand this memo. And the Republican Party ended up losing many voters in the end.

On Monday, President Barack Obama is expected to change the government’s course on this issue, reversing an order by his predecessor, George W. Bush, that prevented scientists from receiving federal money for studying embryonic stem cell lines derived after August 2001.

Obama’s order will allow federal agencies to pay for research that proponents say could find effective treatments for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries and a host of other debilitating medical conditions.

The move fulfills Obama’s campaign promise to separate politics from science, said Aaron Levine, an assistant professor of public policy at Georgia Tech.

Levine has written extensively about the conflict over the morality of human embryo research.

“It’s not going to be a short-term fix, necessarily,” Levine said Saturday. “But some new lines of research may open up.”

Most important, he said, lifting the funding restriction will allow scientists to “push their research toward the most promising technologies rather than the most politically expedient technologies.”

The potential use of embryonic stem cells to create replacement human tissue has always been controversial. Days-old embryos must be destroyed to obtain the cells; they typically are culled from unused embryos that fertility clinics would otherwise discard.

Religious conservatives reacted strongly as word of Obama’s decision leaked out Friday. In an interview with The New York Times, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called it “a slap in the face to Americans who believe in the dignity of all human life.”

Bush’s 2001 order allowed federally sponsored research to continue on lines of embryonic stem cells created before Aug. 9, 2001. But only 21 such lines exist, and Levine and others said many lines can’t be used in human studies. Scientists at Georgia universities have used only stem cell lines created before Bush’s 2001 restriction.

Georgia universities are strongly interested in pursuing new stem cell research, said Dr. Robert Taylor, the acting director of cardiology at Emory University who conducts research in regenerative medicine. Taylor’s research involves cells collected from “peripheral” blood rather than from embryonic sources.

At the University of Georgia, faculty members at the Regenerative Bioscience Center have received federal grants to work with the old stem cell lines. Georgia Tech and the Medical College of Georgia also have continuing research into stem cell use.

Obama’s decision changes the very nature of the research, Taylor said.

“This would open up a lot of opportunity,” Taylor said. Because of the funding restrictions, he said, “the United States is drifting behind other countries.”


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