Since the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research took effect, many research institutions have redirected their focus to other types of stem cells. Prockop's institution, for instance, deals only with adult stem cells.
Adult stem cells can give rise to all the specialized types of cells found in tissue from which they originated, such as skin. But, scientists don't agree on whether adult stem cells may yield cell types other than those of the tissue from which they originate, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Prockop said embryonic stem cells "are mainly of interest as a research tool and a biological experimental system. Their use in patients in spite of that recent approval for Geron is really very questionable because of the potential for tumors."
Still, the anticipated lessening of restrictions by the Obama administration may help funnel more private money into stem cell research, the experts said.
"This should give more general acceptance to stem cell research, because now, there won't be this stigma associated with it as much," Sanberg said.
And, perhaps, a new federal policy would spur organizations such as the American Heart Association -- which currently does not fund research involving human embryonic stem cells or stem cells derived from fetal tissue -- to channel funds into this line of research, Sanberg added. (The heart association said it "recognizes the value of all types of stem cell research and supports federal funding of this research.")
Still, Sanberg pointed out, some ethical issues surrounding stem cell research and its application will remain.
For instance, he said, "There still needs to be some oversight on the uses of stem cells and cloning."
To learn more about stem cells, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
SOURCES: Paul Sanberg, Ph.D., D.Sc., distinguished professor of neurosurgery, and director, University of South Florida Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair, Tampa; Darwin Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., director, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White Hospital, Temple, Texas; American Heart Association