President Obama’s Executive Order instructs the National Institutes of Health to “develop guidelines for the support and conduct of responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.”
This is a boon to American biomedical researchers formerly constrained by the ban of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. And, although the debate over use of embryonic stem cells continues, it is unquestionable that stem cells hold vast potential for regenerative therapies because of their unlimited ability to divide and their potential to develop into different human cell types.
Research involving human stem cells (embryonic and adult) has shown great promise for the treatment of many serious diseases such as diabetes, stroke, spinal injuries, MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. European researchers report elimination of complications in cancer patients of 88% versus 33% in control groups and three-fold increase in quality of life for patients with solid tumors.
The reason for support of embryonic stem cells is that they can become any type of cell, versus adult stem cells which are generally limited to cell types of their tissue of origin. This difference has led to broad agreement in the scientific community that the full range of stem cell research should be supported by Federal funding.
It is not my own cancer that drives my support of President Obama’s decision but the horror of losing a grandchild to brain cancer. It is for parents whose only hope for their child with a degenerative disease is a scientific breakthrough. It is for the otherwise healthy person suffering a debilitating injury such as Christopher Reeve who might again become Superman.
I applaud Mr. Obama’s decision to unshackle scientists and turn the dream of a cure into reality.