Stem Cells, Still a Stalemate

Jun 20, 2007 6:59pm

The ink from the President’s pen is not yet dry, and stem cell researchers are already lamenting his veto. My part of this story was to get their point of view.  Martha Raddatz reported the President’s. Surprisingly strong words from the government of California, which, for lack of federal funding, is the largest backer of research on embryonic stem cells.  (Recall the standard distinction we always need to make on this issue: Mr. Bush says he does not object to stem cell research per se; he does not want Washington funding the destruction of human embryos, which is, he says, destroying human life.) Dale Carlson of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which handles the $3 billion California has pledged for research over ten years: "California has 25 percent of the biomedical research capability in this country. We need the other 75 percent fully engaged and pursuing these therapies.  "If therapies are going to be discovered we need labs all over the country working on this project. So we’re going to have to wait for a new president and hopefully a new policy to really achieve the potential."  The President, as he has in the past, argued there are better ways to get a stem cell than from an embryo: "Researchers are investigating how to combine reprogramming and other innovative techniques to produce stem cells with the abilities of embryonic stem cells, without creating or destroying embryos."  His full text, and more from the White House, are HERE.  And that brought polite frustration from Dr. Arnold Kriegstein of the University of California at San Francisco: "There’s been a great deal of discussion about alternative sources for embryonic stem cells, for example using amniotic fluid or umbilical blood and so forth. But the truth is none of these alternatives really have the potential embryonic stem cells do to create cells of different types–heart cells, muscle cells, nerve cells and so forth."  We’ve been through this before–Mr. Bush has only vetoed three bills in office, and two have been stem cell bills.  We talk to a lot of scientists who believe nothing will change until the next inauguration in 2009.

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