Embryonic Stem Cells Multiply and Divide

Many restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem-cell research are now history. Research and profits will multiply. Ethics and oversight will divide.

Research. At the signing ceremony, President Obama proclaimed, "we will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield." We have a new mandate.
Profits. The embryonic stem cell market is projected to reach $1 billion per year with 10 percent growth annually.* When the restrictions were lifted, stock in leading  stem cell companies spiked. California, with a $3 billion taxpayer-funded stem cell research program in place since 2004, is among the first in line for the gold rush.
Ethics. Proponents expressed hope that it will lead to therapies that will help the more than 100 million Americans with diabetes, cancer, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other conditions. Opponents expressed moral objection over research that "exploits living members of the human species as raw material for research."**
Oversight. President Obama gave the NIH 120 days to draft ethical guidelines for government-funded research using embryonic stem cells. Creating policies that foster innovation while defining appropriate human embryo sources, ensuring proper FDA regulation, protecting intellectual property and ensuring adequate reimbursement is a tall order.
Congress still must act to remove a final barrier. It must overturn the Dickey-Wicker Amendment that prohibits federal funding for the actual extraction of stem cells from human embryos. The debate over use of re-engineered adult (pluripotent) cells versus embryonic cells is sure to boil over.
Pursuing the research application of human embryonic stem cells is much like the cells themselves. Opportunities multiply. Issues divide. And the debate will continue over what makes us human.
—Tom DeSanto

*Michael West, CEO, BioTime in The Scientist; **Douglas Johnson, National Right To Life Committee; Stem cell image: CIRM

2 comments:

elizabeth bloom said...

Thanks Tom!

A very informative and concise view of a complex subject--you've made it much clearer. I enjoyed reading the quote from the Dalai Lama, too.

Elizabeth Bloom

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