Obama Ends Ban on Stem Cell Research

(Stem Cells News image)

President Obama lifted restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research this morning and issued a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence.

Obama took care to emphasize that the order would not “open the door” to allow human cloning, which he said is “dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society, or any society.” But the president said stem cell research has enormous potential to further understanding and treatment of many devastating diseases and conditions. America, he said, should play a leading role in exploring the stem-cell research frontier.

David Scadden, M.D., co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Insitute, was online Monday, March 9, at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss what today’s executive order means to the scientific, medical and research communities, and ultimately to the individual…

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama paid tribute to the late actor Christopher Reeve, who emerged as an advocate for embryonic stem cell research after he was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident.
In lifting the ban on federal funds for stem cell research, Obama said Monday the nation owes a debt of gratitude to people like Reeve, who with his wife, Dana, created a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.

Obama recounted Christopher Reeve’s fighting spirit, efforts to regain the ability to walk and upbeat outlook.
Obama said he wished Reeve and his wife could have been at the White House Monday to witness the event.
Christopher Reeve, who was injured in 1995, died in 2004 of heart failure. Dana Reeve died of lung cancer in 2006…

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin says President Barack Obama’s decision to lift restrictions on stem cell research is a “personal victory.”
The Democrat has used a wheelchair since being paralyzed in a shooting accident as a teenager.

Langevin told The Associated Press on Monday that stem cell research will bring him and others with spinal cord injuries closer to walking again. He said he always believed there was a chance he could walk, even if most doctors thought it wasn’t possible.
Obama on Monday signed an executive order lifting federal funding restrictions for embryonic stem cell research. Supporters of the research believe it could help lead to cures for ailments including diabetes, paralysis and Parkinson’s Disease…

Obama’s stem cell move shouldn’t hurt cord blood bank

“No layoffs here, that’s the headline,” says Tom Moore, founder and CEO of Cord Blood Registry in San Bruno. While embryonic stem cells finally got to step out of the shadows on Monday, Moore’s 300-person company has been a legal and thriving concern for years. Stored in its Tucson lab are a quarter-million samples of newborns’ cord blood, whose stem cells could be helpful in treating crippling medical conditions in family members, from leukemia to juvenile diabetes and brain injury.

Many of the treatments are in their infancy and a number of physicians and medical researchers question cord blood’s effectiveness. Still, the company has seen its revenue, primarily from storage fees paid by donating families, grow 40 percent a year, to $110 million in 2008, said Moore. “In the past 14 months, there have been more transplants using our cord blood stem cells than in the previous 14 years,” he said. The company is discussing with UCSF and Stanford University a possible research study on using the treatment for hearing loss.

The company may get a further boost this week when Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, introduces legislation establishing a public education campaign aimed at informing interested parents about private cord blood banks, like Cord Blood Registry ( www.cordblood.com), and a public bank, the National Cord Blood Inventory, established by law in 2005.

The drive to achieve: Obama officials are looking to “build success stories early” from the administration’s transportation stimulus package, and rebuilding San Francisco’s Doyle Drive is at the “top of the list in their minds.” That from an insider at a conference with the S.F. Chamber of Commerce-led delegation in Washington on Monday. But local agencies “can’t squabble too long” over other California initiatives, like high-speed rail or the Transbay Terminal, “or we risk success.” Check out The Chronicle’s City Insider column, in the paper and online, for more delegation developments…

Stem cell decision exposes religious divides

The embryonic stem cell research debate is steeped with religious arguments, with some faith traditions convinced the research amounts to killing innocent life, others citing the moral imperative to alleviate suffering, and plenty of religious believers caught somewhere in between.
President Barack Obama’s order Monday opening the door for federal taxpayer dollars to fund expanded embryonic stem cell research again brings those often colliding interests to the fore.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called Obama’s move “a sad victory of politics over science and ethics.”
“This action is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested,” Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, said in a statement.
On the other side is the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a United Church of Christ minister and a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary.

“There is an ethical imperative to relieve suffering and promote healing,” she said. “This is good policy for a religiously pluralistic society that cares about human suffering and the relief of human suffering.”
Obama alluded to religion in announcing the changes, saying, “As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”

Some religious traditions teach that because life begins at conception, any research that destroys a human embryo, as this research does, is tantamount to murder and is never justified. The Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are among those that oppose the research.
Other more liberal traditions, including mainline Protestant and Jewish institutions, believe the promise to relieve suffering is paramount. In 2004, the governing body of the Episcopal Church said it would favor the research as long as it used embryos that otherwise would have been destroyed, that embryos were not created for research purposes, or were not bought and sold.

Under Jewish law, an embryo is genetic material that does not have the status of a person. According to the Talmud, the embryo is “simply water” in the first 40 days of gestation. Healing and preserving human life takes precedence over all the other commandments in Judaism.
Some groups and faiths are divided on the issue. Muslims disagree over — among other things — whether an embryo in the early stage of development has a soul. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church, has not taken a position.

from Washington Post , Kswt , Associated Press , San Francisco Chronicle , Associated Press

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