I am starting to wonder if President-elect Obama or his incoming Administration is suffering from BDS. Take this plan to open the tap for Government funding of embryonic Stem Cell research:
But as both incoming Democrats and outgoing Republicans struck a tone of civility, Obama's transition chief signaled that the president-elect could wipe away some hallmarks of the Bush years, including a ban on embyronic stem cell research and moves to open new lands to oil drilling.The move could signal a swift change of course after eight years under the Bush administration, even as top aides stressed Obama's bipartisan aims and predicted the new cabinet could contain familiar faces, particularly at the Pentagon."On stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration, even today, moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country," transition chief John Podesta told Fox. - AFP
OK, at the time stem cell research was in a very basic form. While there are many different types of stem cells, it was the embryonic stem cells that looked the most promising, as they were the most basic building block. Unfortunately, to get them you first needed to kill a fertilized human egg.
To be clear, President Bush did not ban embryonic stem cell research. He just banned using Federal money to pay for whatever research was done. So the research could and does continue to be done, we as taxpayers are just not paying for it. Most of the rest of the world could also continue to study embryonic stem cells.
Today, there have been many discoveries on the stem cell front, including a couple that basically eliminate the need to destroy any fertilized eggs:
January 2007 - Scientists at Wake Forest University led by Dr. Anthony Atala and Harvard University report discovery of a new type of stem cell in amniotic fluid. This may potentially provide an alternative to embryonic stem cells for use in research and therapy.June 2007 - Research reported by three different groups shows that normal skin cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic state in mice. In the same month, scientist Shoukhrat Mitalipov reports the first successful creation of a primate stem cell line through somatic cell nuclear transfer.November 2007 - Human Induced pluripotent stem cells: Two similar papers released by their respective journals prior to formal publication: in Cell by Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka, "Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Adult Human Fibroblasts by Defined Factors", and in Science by Junying Yu, et al., from the research group of James Thomson, "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells": pluripotent stem cells generated from mature human fibroblasts. It is possible now to produce a stem cell from almost any other human cell instead of using embryos as needed previously, albeit the risk of tumorigenesis due to c-myc and retroviral gene transfer remains to be determined.January 2008 - Robert Lanza and colleagues at Advanced Cell Technology and UCSF create the first human embryonic stem cells without destruction of the embryo. - Wikipedia
So now that there appears to a path to obtaining embryonic stem cells without the ethical complications, why is there all of this talk of going back to a part of science that at the time funding was restricted looked like the only path now looks like one of many paths to possible new discoveries? It almost looks like the Obama team just going to reverse this policy simply because it was a Bush policy, totally ignoring the significant discoveries in this field.
Who knows. Maybe they are looking for some anti-aging cream and think that the only possible place to discover it is in the juice from ground up babies. Really, where do you draw the line? What if embryonic stem cells are not good enough? What if the eggs need to mature to 10 week? Twenty weeks? What if they are best coming from a fetus that can survive outside the mother? At its best, this is bad science. I would not call it murder simply because these eggs were not going to turn into kids. BUT if there is some breakthrough, what happens when they need to start harvesting eggs from donors? What do you do when you run out of willing donors? It is best not to go down that path. We are better than this. Too bad that our new President does not appear to think so.