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Obama to Lift Ban on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

By Rob Stein

President Obama is planning to sign an executive order on Monday rolling back restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, according to sources close to the issue.

Although the exact wording of the order has not been revealed, the White House plans an 11 a.m. ceremony to sign the order repealing one of the most controversial steps taken by his predecessor, fulfilling one of Obama's eagerly anticipated campaign promises.

The move, long sought by scientists and patient advocates and opposed by religious groups, would enable the National Institutes of Health to consider requests from scientists to study hundreds of lines of cells that have been developed since the limitations were put in place -- lines that scientists and patient advocate say hold great hope for leading to cures for a host of major ailments.

Administration officials would not comment immediately other than to say "there will be a stem cell related event on Monday."

But an e-mail sent out today from the White House stated that officials were planning a ceremony on Monday "on stem cells and restoring scientific integrity to the government process. At the event the president will sign an executive order related to stem cells." Sources close to the issue, asking not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the plan, said the order would lift the restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cells.

Because stem cells obtained from very early embryos are believed capable of becoming any tissue in the body, scientists believe they could lead to fundamental insights into the underlying causes of many diseases and repair damage caused by a host of ailments, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries. But extracting them destroys the embryo.

President Bush, seeking to prevent tax dollars from encouraging the destruction of more embryos, imposed the restriction on Aug. 9, 2001, limiting federal funding to studies of what turned out to be 21 cell lines that were already in existence as of that date.
The limitation, welcomed by those who believe that destroying human embryos is immoral, has been denounced by many scientists for severely hindering research one of the most promising fields of biomedical research.

The 21 cell lines that scientists have been permitted to study under the Bush policy have a variety of shortcomings, critics say. Many, for example, may have defects that could make them dangerous to transplant into people. But perhaps more important, hundreds of newer lines have been developed that offer a host of opportunities. Many lines, for example, carry defects for specific diseases.

Because of his long support for such research and repeated promise to repeal the restrictions, proponents expected Obama to lift the restriction in his first week in office, when he issued a flurry of executive orders to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, make government less secretive and lift a ban on funding international family planning groups that support abortion, among other things. But Obama did not, raising concern among advocates that he might be reconsidering his promise.

Opponents have argued that research on human embryonic stem cells has become unnecessary because of scientific advances in the interim, including promising studies involving adult stem cells and the ability to turn adult cells into cells that appear to have many of the properties of embryonic cells. But many scientists say it remains far from clear which cells will ultimately lead to the most important advances, making it crucial to continue to study both kinds.

Some opponents have suggested that Obama might qualify his executive order to try to take the sting out of the move as part of his effort to find common ground on divisive issues. But proponents expect Obama will simply lift the restriction without caveats and let the NIH work out the details.

In anticipation, the NIH has started drafting guidelines that would address the many ethical issues raised by the research, using as models templates compiled by the National Academy of Sciences and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

Advocates were especially concerned that the delay could force stem cell scientists to miss an opportunity to apply for some of the new funding the NIH is receiving as part of the stimulus package.

Despite the executive order, Congress is also likely to get involved by considering legislation designed to prevent any future presidents from reinstating restrictions.

By Lexie Verdon  |  March 6, 2009; 4:33 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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The big surprise is that Obama took so long.

Posted by: JakeD | March 8, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

This is the beginning of the "END", we are allowing Dr Frankenstein to create his monster again because their are no "RULES".

We all need to remember are living in a "BRAVE NEW WORLD", and we need "RULES" to make sure that the DR FRANKENSTEIN"S of this world do not create "MONSTERS. The 200 Birthday of Dr. Frankensteins monster will be celebrated in 2018. Lets make sure he does not rise from his grave.

VJ Machiavelli

Posted by: VJMachiavelli1 | March 8, 2009 3:22 AM | Report abuse

Do ya think, there Nodebris? In case you are in the dark, that was a little play on the words that Michelle used when her hubby was running for President. She stated "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country." I wonder what she was before? Disgusted? Ashamed?

By the way, don't you think that a set of 25 movies is a little bit of a common/cheap gift to hand to the Prime Minister of a country? That's more like something one would give as a gift to a relative for Christmas, but most certainly never to a prime minister of any country. It was a very poor choice. He chose poorly, just as he did with his many, many poor choices made thus far for cabinet members, the stimulus package, free everything including health care. All these promises and no money. Kind of reminds of that phrase. "Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink". But, dear Nodebris, I guess you will read that and say that I sound thirsty.

Posted by: Daylo1 | March 7, 2009 1:08 AM | Report abuse

Daylo1: "For the first time in my adult life, I am ashamed of my country."

That says so very much about you.

Posted by: nodebris | March 6, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

I wonder of Obaama and Michelle saved up their Columbia House freebies for this gift? Just a thought...

You can't MAKE this stuff up.

Posted by: Daylo1 | March 6, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Of course he is going to sign this. Anyone every have any doubt? This is full speed ahead and damn the consequences.

This "President" is totally out of control and I don't believe anyone can rein him in. Look what he did to Prime Ministered Gordon Brown:

Well, well, well...another day, another problem and another embarrassment for the American people. Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of England, (our great friends and ally) receives snubs in more than way...

Brown came bearing gifts to the Obama's. a pen holder, which came from the oak of the HMS Gannet, a naval ship that served during antislavery trips to Africa...a very thoughtful and symbolic gift.

The next gift, the framed commission of the ship that symbolized our friendship with our ally - the U.S.S. Resolute (yes, the desk in the President's office is made from that wood --remember National Treasure).

Last, but not least, Gordon Brown presented Obama with the FIRST EDITION of Martin Gilbert's seven volume biography of Winston Churchill. All gifts are priceless are literally priceless to my way of thinking.

What does Obama give in return as a lovely parting gift? 25 classic American movies. Total cost approximately $200.

HELLLLLOOOOOO! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? There is no decorum in this White House. There is no common sense in this White House.

Then there's the one about Hillary and the Russians...the reset button that actually translated to "overcharged".

What a total embarrassment to the American people. Every day that comes around there is something WRONG. No wonder the stock market won't come's too freakin' embarrassed.

This is just the BEGINNING. Hope everyone who voted for him takes a magnifying glass and looks very closely at the way he is acting. It is definitely narcissism to the nth degree.

Talk about running a country into the ground...can you imagine what this country will look like in 3 years and 10 months? It might not exist.

For the first time in my adult life, I am ashamed of my country.

Posted by: Daylo1 | March 6, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

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