Obama Lifts Ban on Stem Cell Research

MONDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- Separating science from politics with his signature, President Barack Obama lifted the eight-year ban on embryonic stem cell research on Monday.

During a late morning press conference, Obama issued the executive order removing federal funding limits on such research that were first imposed by his predecessor, President George W. Bush, in 2001.

According to the Associated Press, Obama said Monday that he is allowing federal taxpayer dollars to fund significantly broader research on embryonic stem cells because "medical miracles do not happen simply by accident," and promised his administration would make up for the ground lost under his predecessor.

The Obama order does not address a separate legislative ban, which precludes any federal money paying for the development of stem cell lines, according to the AP. The legislation, however, does not prevent funds for research on those lines created without federal funding.

While The New York Times reported that it may take many months for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop new guidelines for stem cell research, scientists were already applauding the president's actions.

"The availability of federal funding for research on cell lines that had been off limits during the Bush administration, coupled with billions of newly available dollars in federal stimulus money, could set the stage for a tidal wave of support that could propel stem cell research well into the next decade -- if things move quickly," said a statement from Stanford University researchers in California.

"This action is both welcome and overdue," Dr. Philip Pizzo, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine and a governing board member of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, said in the statement. "This vote of confidence from President Obama in the promise of embryonic stem cell research validates and extends CIRM's mission to help millions of people suffering from currently incurable medical conditions. It is also a powerful signal that advances in medical research must be pursued even in times of economic difficulty."

Dr. Joseph Heyman, board chairman of the American Medical Association, said: "The AMA supports biomedical research on stem cells and has encouraged strong public support of federal funding for this research. Today's action by President Obama will help scientists realize the potential of stem cell research to benefit the many Americans living with diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's."

Peter T. Wilderotter, president and CEO of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in Short Hills, N.J., said in a statement, "With a stroke of his pen, President Obama acknowledged the will of the majority of Americans and harnessed the power of the federal government to move research forward. By removing politics from science, President Obama has freed researchers to explore these remarkable stem cells, learn from them and possibly develop effective therapies using them."

The general enthusiasm followed a wave of similar sentiments last month when initial reports of the new policy came out of a closed-door meeting between Obama and House of Representatives' Democrats.

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