Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama Removes Limits to Stem Cell Research

In another rebuke of the neanderthal administration of George W. Bush, President Barack Obama reversed the Bush administration limits on embryonic stem-cell research. This is a bold move to separate politics from science.

Obama overturned an order signed by President Bush in 2001 that barred the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells beyond using 60 cell lines that existed at that time. Bush twice vetoed legislation that would have expanded federally funded embryonic stem cell research. Those siding with Bush say scientific advances allow researchers to conduct groundbreaking research without destroying human embryos.

What follows are excerpts from the Boston Globe story of Obama's lifting of the ban on embryonic stem cell research:

CAMBRIDGE - Feasting on a celebratory spread of pastries, sheet cake, and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, Harvard scientists watched in rapt silence, smiles spreading over their faces, as President Obama yesterday lifted eight-year-old restrictions on stem cell research and announced a broader commitment to science.

At the morning screening, held in a fourth-floor conference room just down the hallway from biology laboratories, students gathered alongside senior researchers to revel in a moment that will change their careers - whether they are just about to set up their own laboratories or are looking back on years of work that has been hindered by Bush administration limits on human embryonic stem cell research.

"I have never been comfortable as being seen in opposition to my government, let alone our nation's leader," said Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. "The dark ages are now over for our lab."

Obama yesterday followed through on promises he made during his election campaign, signing an executive order allowing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and directing the National Institutes of Health to write guidelines within 120 days for how the research should be conducted.

"Ultimately, I cannot guarantee that we will find the treatments and cures we seek. No president can promise that," Obama said. "But I can promise that we will seek them - actively, responsibly, and with the urgency required to make up for lost ground."

He also signed a memorandum to elevate science within his administration, clarify the responsibilities of the office of science and technology policy, and ensure that "we base our public policies on the soundest science . . . and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions."

At a press conference later in the day, Lawrence Tabak acting deputy director of the NIH, which received $8.2 billion for research in the stimulus package, said the agency planned to move quickly so that embryonic stem cell work could be funded through that package.

"We anticipate that stimulus resources will be able to be used under the context of the new guidelines," Tabak said, although he did not have specifics on how much money would be allocated.

Human embryonic stem cells have the capacity to develop into any tissue in the body, such as insulin-producing cells that might eventually be used to treat diabetes, or neurons that could replace ones that die off during Lou Gehrig's disease. The potent cells are seen as important research tools, as well as promising treatments. But they have caused much political and ethical debate because human embryos are destroyed when the cells are extracted.

In relation to Obama's overturn of stem cell research limits, Nancy Reagan released the following statement. Nancy Reagan has been an outspoken advocate of stem cell research — and scientists hope that the research could someday lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicted her late husband, President Ronald Reagan.

I’m very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research,” she wrote in a statement released shortly after Obama reversed the Bush administration limits. “These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward. I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers.

Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases — and soon. As I’ve said before, time is short, and life is precious.

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During his first weeks in office, Obama made good on his promise that scientific decisions must be "based on facts, not ideology."

The Bush administration came under frequent criticism from environmentalists who warned the president wasn't doing enough to lessen what they saw as the damaging impact the United States has on the globe.

Within a week of taking office, Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to review a California application to regulate greenhouse gases and told his Department of Transportation to begin implementing fuel efficiency standards passed last year but not implemented by the Bush administration. If the EPA grants a waiver allowing California to set its own emissions standards, the nation's most populous state will be allowed to require automakers to produce trucks and cars that get better mileage than what is required under the current national standard. Thirteen other states could take similar action.

The Bush administration rejected California's application, agreeing with automakers that the creation of another set of rules regarding pollution standards for some states would be confusing and unenforceable. In Obama's recent speech to Congress, the president said the United States will double its supply of renewable energy in three years. To do so, he's calling on a new class of workers to be trained in environmental fields. Green jobs training programs will get $500 million from his stimulus package.

In another break from the Bush administration, Obama last week overturned a regulation that many environmentalists claim weakened the Endangered Species Act. The regulation, issued a few weeks before Bush left office, made it easier for federal agencies to skip consultations with government scientists before launching projects that could affect endangered wildlife.

By overturning the regulation, Obama said he had restored "the scientific process to its rightful place at the heart of the Endangered Species Act, a process undermined by past administrations."

Obama hasn't shied away from talking about climate change. He campaigned on promises to eliminate oil imports from the Middle East, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent and create a green energy economy.

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plez sez: it took about 2 seconds before the first right wing nut job threw a hizzy fit over PRESIDENT OBAMA lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research. in an interview, newt gingrich - former speaker of the house and probable 2012 republican contestant for president - said that the Obama move was an "ideological sideshow." claiming this move will embolden the right wing coalition to stop everything. hmmmm... didn't every last member of the house vote against the stimulus plan? i don't think this move will move the needle for these guys.

personally, i think that these kind of decisions, especially in the realm of pure medical science, the need for government intervention and oversight is stifling to creativity and innovation. if one were to go back and look at what dr. jonas salk did in creating the polio vaccine, we'd probably be shocked at some of his experiments. as the old saying goes: "you gotta break some eggs to make an omelet!" oops... maybe this wasn't the best time for that analogy! *smile*

when medical issues are no longer politicized, there can be advances when scientists and doctors can do what they do best... do research! i'm sure if there weren't such a stigma (gay men, black men, sex, illegal drug use, etc.) attached to HIV & AIDS, there'd be a cure by now.

~ ~ Citations ~ ~

Read the Boston Globe article about Obama reversing Bush's ban on embryonic stem cell research.

Read the CNN.com article about Obama moves to separate science from politics.

Read the Washington Post article about Obama and stem cell research limits.

Read the POLITICO.com article about Nancy Reagan's praise of Barack Obama.

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