President Obama is to reverse another of his predecessor’s restrictions, and allow federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. In a speech later today the President will not lay out any guidelines himself, but will ask America’s National Institute of Health to come up with new rules by the summer. He will also highlight differences with the Bush administration by signing a pledge to restore scientific integrity to government decision-making. Doctors and researchers welcomed the news.
“This is one of the fastest moving areas of science. And yet we’ve been restricted. We’ve been operating with one hand tied behind our back,” said Dr George Daley, from Boston Children’s Hospital. Stem cell research is an emotional issue in the United States, with opponents horrified at the President’s decision. “I’m concerned for the short period of time they’re going to kill a lot of unborn children as they do this,” said Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma. Stem cells are primitive long-living cells which are the source of all other cells in the body. When taken from days-old embryos they can help produce tissues and possibly organs. Scientists say research will transform medicine and treatment.