Friday, March 6, 2009

Sometimes solutions are easy.

story below from LA Times.... sj

Obama to reverse Bush policy on embryonic stem cell research

White House sources say key restrictions on federal funding will be lifted Monday. Social conservatives protest that the move will 'aid the destruction of innocent human life.'

By Noam N. Levey and Karen Kaplan

4:24 PM PST, March 6, 2009

Reporting from Washington — President Obama on Monday plans to lift key restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, reversing one of the most controversial domestic policies of his predecessor, according to administration sources.

The move has been widely anticipated by scientists and patient-advocacy groups who chafed at President Bush's 2001 decision to bar federal funding for research on nearly all human embryonic stem cells.

Under the Bush policy, a limited set of embryonic stem cells created before August 2001 could be used in federally funded experiments.

But many scientists said that policy placed significant constraints on research aimed at producing cures for disease. Embryonic stem cells can grow into nearly any type of tissue in the body, and scientists are hoping to learn how to mold them into heart cells for cardiac patients, pancreas cells for diabetics and replacement brain cells for people with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease.

In changing the policy, Obama may further anger social conservatives who believe that the research is immoral because human embryos are destroyed in the course of obtaining stem cells. Many are already upset at Obama for reversing Bush administration policies that restricted abortion services.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said federal funding should be directed to research on stem cells not derived from embryos.

"The question is whether taxpayer dollars should be used to subsidize the destruction of precious human life," Boehner said in a statement Friday. "Millions of Americans strongly oppose that, and rightfully so. Taxpayer dollars should not aid the destruction of innocent human life."

Administration officials did not provide much detail Friday about the order that Obama plans to sign at a White House ceremony Monday.

One official said the president would emphasize "a return to sound science," a theme that Obama and other Democratic candidates talked about often during last year's presidential campaign.

Eight years ago, Bush cast the restrictions as a compromise that would allow scientific research to continue "without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos." Congress tried to lift his restrictions. Bush twice vetoed legislation to do so.

The restrictions became increasingly vexing for many scientists, who charged that they had slowed the pace of research.

"It was such a disaster," said Julie Baker, a stem cell researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Reversing the policy would give federally funded scientists access to hundreds of newer stem cells that are free of the chromosomal abnormalities and animal molecules that they say make the so-called presidential cell lines essentially useless as potential medical therapies.

Many scientists are also eager to get their hands on the dozens of new lines that carry the genetic signatures of the diseases they study. None of the presidential lines have that feature.

American scientists are no longer at the vanguard of stem cell research, asserts a study published last year in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

In the paper, Aaron Levine, a public policy professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, found that whereas U.S. researchers published 46% of the world's top papers in the fields of molecular biology and genetics, they produced only 36% of the human embryonic stem cell studies.

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