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Obama To Reverse Bush Limits On Stem Cell Work 508

Posted by Soulskill
from the stem-cell-stimulus-package dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from the Associated Press: "Reversing an eight-year-old limit on potentially life-saving science, President Barack Obama plans to lift restrictions Monday on taxpayer-funded research using embryonic stem cells. ... Under President George W. Bush, taxpayer money for that research was limited to a small number of stem cell lines that were created before Aug. 9, 2001, lines that in many cases had some drawbacks that limited their potential usability. But hundreds more of such lines — groups of cells that can continue to propagate in lab dishes — have been created since then, ones that scientists say are healthier, better suited to creating treatments for people rather than doing basic laboratory science. Work didn't stop. Indeed, it advanced enough that this summer, the private Geron Corp. will begin the world's first study of a treatment using human embryonic stem cells, in people who recently suffered a spinal cord injury. Nor does Obama's change fund creation of new lines. But it means that scientists who until now have had to rely on private donations to work with these newer stem cell lines can apply for government money for the research, just like they do for studies of gene therapy or other treatment approaches."
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Obama To Reverse Bush Limits On Stem Cell Work

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  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Belisarivs (526071) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @08:43AM (#27104077)

    Given the deep moral objection a significant part of the community has to the use of embryonic stem cells, and given that it looks like there have been large advances in the use of adult and other stem cells, why lift the funding ban? I mean, all other things being equal, wouldn't it be better to not wander into a moral gray area?

    As I understand it, one of the major points of the ban was to discourage the field from becoming reliant on stem cells that required further destruction of embryos. I might be wrong, but from my understanding great leaps have been doing just that - that adult and other non-destructive forms of stem cell research have been fruitful. If that's the case, I don't understand the point of lifting the ban other than for purely political purposes.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @08:54AM (#27104131) Homepage Journal

      The point of lifting the ban is to allow research on real stem cells, to understand how development works and how early development diseases start. It's to understand deadly and debilitating diseases.

      The anti-stem cell research crowd seem to conveniently leave out why real stem cells are desired, there are a set of properties that make embryonic stem cells a "gold standard". There are other ways to get stem cells, but apparently they don't actually behave the exact same way.

      I think there is a misconception on both sides that embryos are going to be used to cure people, that's not really true, there might never be enough embryos made to treat everyone with the debilitating and deadly diseases, but the research coming out of it should help understand the diseases and cellular biology for better treatment, and to learn how to improve the other means of making stem cells.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

        by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @09:52AM (#27104461)
        The point of lifting the ban is to allow research on real stem cells

        The point of lifting the ban is to allow federal funding of research on real stem cells.
        The research itself was never banned, and apparently thrived on private funding.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Milican (58140)

          Exactly. The State of California had their own stem cell research [ca.gov] going on during the federal funding ban.

          It would be nice if I had a line item veto on my IRS 1040. That way I could go in and veto items that I found morally objectionable. It would nice if I didn't have to fund elements of a government that go against my beliefs. Oh well... they've got the guns.

          JOhn

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jimmy_dean (463322)

          Exactly! People can be pro-stem cell research, but anti-Federal government funding the use of these cells for disease research. That is my position on this issue. When you get the government involved, it forces people to fund something they might not believe is moral. And that makes it doubly immoral for them. Private funding gives the freedom for those who believe in the possibility of the research the chance to fund it, those who do not agree with it will not have to waste their money funding such researc

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @08:55AM (#27104133) Homepage

      There is a great deal to be learned from the study of embryonic stem cells. They are, after all, what the people working with adult cells are trying to emulate.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Gerafix (1028986) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @08:55AM (#27104135)
      It is only a moral grey area for people who have no idea what embryonic stem cells actually are. If 'pro-lifers' aren't up in arms about fertility clinics it is simply ignorant for them to be up in arms about stem cell research. And although adult stem cell research has advanced, adult stem cells are not embryonic stem cells. That's like saying, "Well they've put probes on Mars, why bother putting probes on other planets?" Science wants to know things while bureaucrats and religious fanatics want to stay ignorant.
      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Belisarivs (526071) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @10:05AM (#27104541)
        I think you're being a bit unfairly dismissive of the pro-life side (and most pro-lifers I know of do have objections to fertility methods that result in destruction of embryos). Science may want to know things, but most people accept that there are ethical limits on where science should go and how it gets there. Rejecting, out of hand, the ethical concerns of the pro-life movement as "want[ing] to stay ignorant" also condemns those scientists who had moral objections to the development of the atom bomb as wishing for ignorance. I might disagree with them, but that doesn't mean that I consider them luddites.
      • How do you even dare to call them "pro-lifers"? They are murderers guilty of effectively killing anyone who could be saved by methods derived from this kind of research. Stopping fertility clinics isn't "pro-life" either, it's about nothing but banning person A from doing things disliked by person B's religion.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mdarksbane (587589)

        I would say it is even worse than that.

        Fertility clinics exist already, the embryos exist already, and are already "dead" or going to "die."

        It is like forbidding organ donation and transplant because they don't want people killed for their organs.

        As in the previous case, there is a reasonable compromise (no killing people for their organs, limits on the organ market) that is pretty much already in effect (no having an abortion to create stem cells, no massive stem cell farms, just reusing waste products).

        Th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Xenographic (557057)

        > If 'pro-lifers' aren't up in arms about fertility clinics it is simply ignorant for them to be up in arms about stem cell research.

        But they are up in arms about that. At least, the Catholics are.

        If there isn't a massive outcry, it's because a lot of people honestly don't know what happens in fertility clinics.

        And didn't you see the fuss over the 'octomom'? You may have noticed that her rationale was that she didn't want to throw any of them away (though her method for avoiding that was dangerously ir

    • by iris-n (1276146)

      The adult stem cells are not nearly as powerful or easy to obtain than the embryonic ones.

      What I think its wrong is imposing an artificial limitation on a very promising field because of the moral difficulties that a religious minority have with it. This is clearly a case of failing to separate church and state. And this is a particularity of the christian religion. Hinduism springs to my mind as an example of a religion that has no problem with it. I thought that everyone agreed that religion has no say in

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 07, 2009 @10:49AM (#27104839)

      Bush made his decision based NOT on science but on naked pandering to his political base. Science is not, and never has been "faith based". Bush understood nothing of the science involved in stem cell research, and NEVER WANTED TO. Stem cells, embryonic or otherwise, are just that, cells. They are not embryos, they are not fetuses, and they are NOT unborn life needing to be protected. Bush approached the issue with the same intellectual incuriosity that marked the rest of his life. It's far past the time where we should be made to suffer for his mistakes, arrogance, and ignorance.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by speedtux (1307149) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @11:09AM (#27104991)

      wouldn't it be better to not wander into a moral gray area?

      This is tissue obtained during a legal procedure, and it's going to be destroyed if it's not used. What exactly do you think is "morally gray" about using it to help people?

      Given the deep moral objection a significant part of the community has

      I have deep moral objections to Christianity, but that doesn't mean I want to make Christianity illegal. If we're going to live together peacefully, we must get over trying to legislate our moral objections over what other people are doing, and limit ourselves to legislating what we need in order to co-exist.

      that adult and other non-destructive forms of stem cell research have been fruitful.

      Nobody has any idea how well adult stem cells work relative to embryonic stem cells.

      I don't understand the point of lifting the ban other than for purely political purposes

      Obama is removing an unjustified interference by Republicans in scientific research that was enacted for "purely political purposes". In different words, Obama is restoring some sanity.

  • Christ Almighty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 07, 2009 @09:08AM (#27104209)
    Not even a dozen posts in we already have shitheads bemoaning that 'babies die' when these cells are harvested.

    1. According to the Department of Bioethics, anywhere between sixty to eighty percent of fertilized eggs fail to attach to the uterus naturally.

    2. Though a precursor to a fully formed human being, these little balls of cells have neither brains nor senses. They have no qualia, no conscious phenomena. They are at most minuscule fragments of tissue - kind of like the smears most of you leave on the sheets at night.

    3. If the cells that precede the formation of a human being that will never grow to become even a fetus, much less a fully formed infant, can be used to save lives that exist today, why not? A human that will never be is effectively dead.

    4. All of these things can be taken into consideration without devaluing conscious human life, because conscious human life this is not.

    We're not giving permission to Anton LaVey to tear the fetuses of misbegotten children from the rancid wombs of unwed women of color while Marilyn Manson and 50 Cent plays over the back alley abortion clinic's P.A. system, you stupid fucking hicks. If you believe that human life begins 'when the sperm hits the germ' then every mother that has attempted to get pregnant and failed repeatedly could very probably be guilty of negligent homicide because of point number one.

    And besides, we can get plenty of cells from elsewhere so the debate is now largely moot save for those few situations where adult cells may not suffice.
  • AP failing again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idiotnot (302133) <sean@757.org> on Saturday March 07, 2009 @09:41AM (#27104381) Homepage Journal

    But it means that scientists who until now have had to rely on private donations to work with these newer stem cell lines can apply for government money for the research,

    Because the State of California is giving out private donations?

    I was kind of pissed at Bush for blocking federal funding on new lines until I really thought about it for awhile. There's nothing that precludes researchers from doing research on new lines.

    If people wanted this so bad, what prevented them from pulling out their checkbooks? Hello, there, Silicon Valley. There's lots of rich people there. How about a donation? You, too, Hollywood, if this is such a big issue.

    As to why Obama's doing it, well, two reasons. First, it satisfies a niche constituency, who like to see abortion-related topics pressed to the forefront at every opportunity. Second, his tax plan does probably kill off the possibility of private funding.

    (I'm pro-choice, BTW. But to look past Obama's shallow political motives, and to ignore the reality of the situation while Bush was president is very foolish.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      If people wanted this so bad, what prevented them from pulling out their checkbooks? Hello, there, Silicon Valley. There's lots of rich people there. How about a donation? You, too, Hollywood, if this is such a big issue.

      Hell yeah! And if you want a road built or a law enforced how 'bout you pay for that yourself too.

      Or you want a war fought or a private bank bailed out...oh no wait, we have got money for that.

    • Re:AP failing again (Score:5, Interesting)

      by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @12:33PM (#27105603) Homepage

      Basic scientific research is a "public good". You can't get the proper levels of funding by asking the private sector to do it, simply because the bulk of the benefits will be impossible to monetize. Since anyone can use the products of basic research, those who fund it create something that their freeloading competitors can use just as easily as they can. So basic research will always be starved under a private sector regime.

      Invoking Hollywood? It's hard for me to believe that you're really pro-choice, since that's nothing but standard Right-wing culture war claptrap. Hollywood is in the business of making movies, not identifying promising avenues for scientific research. This research is going to benefit even the few hardcore pro-lifers who want to see it outlawed, and even the wealthy corporations who would starve the government of funding to shave a few points off their tax burden will be able to use this research to create new lifesaving products. So why shouldn't the burden of funding that research fall on the population as a whole?

      My guess is that you're "pro-choice" the way most wackjob libertarians are: you revile abortion as immoral, just not quite as immoral as a government who would dare to ever tell anyone what to do. As soon as you find a way to get the free market to ban abortion, you'll do it.

      Finally, if you think that Obama's tiny increases in the marginal rate are going to prevent every American from ever becoming or staying rich (which is what it would take to "kill off the possibility of private funding," you're off your rocker. The rich did very well after Clinton raised taxes. But the poor and the middle class also did very well for themselves, which probably irks you.

  • by mc1138 (718275) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @10:00AM (#27104503) Homepage
    Just remember any anti aging effects are purely temporary...
  • by rdean400 (322321) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @10:38AM (#27104759)

    because it forced researchers to find other viable sources of stem cells. Several studies have noted that embryonic stem cells have a high incidence of becoming cancerous. Stem cells from other sources have a lower incidence.

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @12:40PM (#27105645)

      My first and greatest complaint against the Bush administration is that it made scientific views a matter of state policy and politics rather than an evidence based process. Of necessity this includes decisions made as to what the course of scientific investigations should be.

      THIS IS UNTENABLE POLICY. This is the 21st century where in fact the future progress of the human race depends solely on accurate science. To have politics rather than evidence guide this is flat out 100% unacceptable.

      The intrusion of policies of this nature controlling the dispersal of government funds for research and development is a breaking of the requirement that decisions of government be made in a way that aides, not hinders the governed. It is no different in principle than any other corruption of the process of government; it is a matter of religious lobbyists and campaign contributors influencing policy in a manner that is detrimental to the nation and world.

      People howl about the oil lobby extracting favorable treatment.

      This is FAR worse.

  • by ActusReus (1162583) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @10:45AM (#27104803)

    I don't really care to wade into the abortion-debate muck, particularly as abortion has nothing to do with the stem cells we're talking about. Those are obtained from fertility clinics, and created by people who are SO "pro-life" that they leave plenty of discarded excess life behind in the freezer.

    However, what frustrates me to a greater degree is this myth that stem cell research has been "restricted". 90+ percent of people on the street (and probably even a majority of Slashdot posters here) mistakenly believe that the evil Bush administration "banned" or "outlawed" stem cell research. That's simply not true. The last administration refused to SUBSIDIZE it, and that's all. Researchers have been under no restriction whatsoever to do any of this research, as long as they're not sucking off the taxpayer teat for their funds.

    This opens up an entirely separate debate on private sources of medical research funds, and why pharmaceutical companies now pay more in marketing than they do in R&D. I'll leave that debate to others. However, are we REALLY so drunk on "stimulus" spending for everything under the sun these days, that refusing to subsidize a particular item means that item is actively "restricted"?

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @12:27PM (#27105571) Journal

      The last administration refused to SUBSIDIZE it, and that's all. Researchers have been under no restriction whatsoever to do any of this research, as long as they're not sucking off the taxpayer teat for their funds.
      ...
      However, are we REALLY so drunk on "stimulus" spending for everything under the sun these days, that refusing to subsidize a particular item means that item is actively "restricted"?

      I was reading an article about a research facility that had to run parrallel labs.
      One to deal with adult & federally approved embryonic stem cells
      And one built entirely from private funds to deal with non-approved embryonic stem cells.

      The head of the lab said the rescindment of Bush era policy was a great relief because they no longer had to maintain an expensive and artificial wall between their efforts.

    • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @01:18PM (#27105877) Homepage

      Big Pharma spends money on marketing because it makes them money. They spend almost nothing on basic R & D because basic scientific facts cannot be patented, and therefore anything they discover can be used as easily by their competitors as by themselves. So if we want new basic scientific facts to be discovered, of course we need to "subsidize it", to let researchers "suc[k] off the taxpayer teat for their funding."

      My question to you is, what the hell is so wrong with that, that you'd denigrate fundamental scientific inquiry with such rhetoric. Even if you're a proponent of small government, you should be able to understand why science is a public good, and therefore worthy of public dollars.

      The fact is that the government is (and I believe ought to be) providing most of the funding for this sort of research. Therefore, the ban on federal funding did have the effect of greatly diminishing the amount of research being done. Thankfully, California took the hit for us all in the interim. And guess where most of the stem cell research is being done now? As bad off as California is right now, they clearly won that bet.

  • by sadler121 (735320) <msadler@gmail.com> on Saturday March 07, 2009 @11:40AM (#27105223) Homepage

    If Congress wants to pass Steam Cell Legislation this is sure to pass the Senate. There are 5 Mormon senators (4 Republicans, 1 Democrat) who voted for Embryonic Steam Cell research twice during Bush's presidency.

    Orrin Hatch who the RIAA's lap dog, personally appealed to Bush to pass the legislation...I suppose that is about the only thing he is good for...

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