Bush Stem Cell Veto's Effect On Research

President Bush is expected to exercise his first ever veto on legislation that would expand federal funding to research on new stem cell lines derived from embryos leftover from fertility clinics. In 2001, President Bush declared that he thought it immoral to spend taxpayer money on deriving new stem cell lines from embryos that would necessarily be destroyed in the process.

So have the president's restrictions harmed U.S. stem cell research? The restrictions probably have slowed research a bit because researchers have had to build completely new infrastructure using private donations and state funds in order to avoid mixing federal funds from their other research. In other words, stem cell researchers who want to work on new stem cell lines have to find money to pay for new standalone labs, new microscropes, new petri dishes, and so forth.

On the other hand, President Bush's limits on research have provoked an outpouring of private and state funding that I have argued previously may well exceed whatever federal funding might have otherwise been available.

That point is alluded to in an article today in the New York Times:

"It would make a major impact, but there wouldn't likely be a windfall of funding in this area," said Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Institute for Regeneration Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Some researchers hope the legislation would lead eventually to more financing, though the federal research budget has been tight. . . .

Still, it is difficult to quantify how much the president's policy has actually retarded research. Private donations worth tens of millions of dollars have filled the gap to some extent, though scientists say the federal government would be a larger and steadier source of money. A few states are also putting money into the field, the biggest by far being California, which is slated to spend $3 billion over 10 years, though the money is now held up by litigation.

Whatever one's opinion of federal research funding, given that a substantial majority of Americans favor embryonic stem cell research, it's a good bet that fed funds will start flowing into the field shortly after January 20, 2009.

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    Ron,
    Would it have been possible for labs to use existing infrastructure and simply pay a fair rental price to avoid building redundant labs? Or would that not satisfy the requirements?

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    Hi Mo: That might have worked, the problem is the huge administrative burden of making absolutely sure that no federal pippettes, petri dishes, slides, gels, etc. strayed over into areas where the new stem cell lines resided. If they did you risked having your federal grants jerked and your postdocs out on the street.

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    Whilie there's IMO a good libertarian case to be made against federal funding (Cato does it at http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=2762), THIS IS BUSH'S FIRST VETO? THIS?? NOT THE PATRIOT ACT, OR FARM BILL, OR MEDICARE BILL, OR NCBH, OR THE STEEL TARIFFS, BUT THIS??? WHAT. THE. FLYING. FUCK.(/anger).

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    "In 2001, President Bush declared that he thought it immoral to spend taxpayer money on deriving new stem cell lines from embryos that would necessarily be destroyed in the process."

    We need that money to pay for our programs which call for killing living, breathing children.

  • ||

    We need that money to pay for our programs which call for killing living, breathing children.

    What programs specifically call for this?

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    Right there with you, Adam. Too bad every spending bill doesn't potentially kill an embryo somewhere. But maybe that's the idea, just get some spending-conscious senator or congressman (assuming there are some left) to slip an embryo-killing provision into every bill, and let the vetoes roll in.

    That new pesky line item veto might end up getting in the way, but I just can't believe it took THIS (and THIS LONG) for veto #1.

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    We need that money to pay for our programs which call for killing living, breathing children.

    What programs specifically call for this?

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    We need that money to pay for our programs which call for killing living, breathing children.

    What programs specifically call for this?

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    Ron,
    That makes sense, since the ESCR dept. would have to have strict accounting of how many dishes, pipettes, gels, microscopes, etc. were used in their department to pay for it. Still seems like a waste.

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    Wow, research is going on despite limits on federal funding. Whoda thunk it. So now, will libertarians oppose federal funding like they do with every other non-defense issue?

    Probably not; poking at pro-lifers is too fun, I guess.

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    Whatever else one might think about the issue, I am encouraged by the fact that academic researchers are increasingly seeking other sources of funding for a cutting-edge field. A scientific community with a more balanced funding portfolio is a much stronger scientific community.

  • VM||

    This is important research. As with the genome project, non-federal solutions might be more efficient!

    Good call about the portfolio, Dr. T!

    Let's keep the research legal!

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    If stem cells are going to be thrown away anyways, perhaps they should be used. I dont understand the moral objection.

    However, that being said, there is NO ban in place for private research.

    There is also no proof that research from the Gov. is better than the private sector. Wonderful drugs have been created by private industry.

    Private industry also beat out in the race to map the human genome.

    It is not true that stem cells are proven to cure cancer, make the blind see, or the crippled walk. Which is why private industry has not invested their time, money, or energy.

    It is also not true that stem cells are always helpful. We have had two Lyme patients in our support group die in the last year after receiving stem cell treatment overseas.

    It is a personal decision regarding "risk" but the results will not always be positive. And to portray stem cells without any risk is just not accurate. And to portray them as the end of illness, disease, and disability is a lie.

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    On the subject of stem cells, here is from the Catholic First Things


    http://www.firstthings.com

    "....Meanwhile, Carlos Lima has published his research demonstrating that a patient�s own adult stem cells and olfactory mucosa can treat paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. This study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, reports on seven patients treated with the procedure. (Lima has treated at least two dozen more.) Two of the seven regained bladder control. One regained control of the anal sphincter. This alone is huge! �Every patient had improvement� in �motor scores.� �Most recovered sensation below the initial level of injury that was repaired.� No side effects other than those associated with any surgery.


    Let us caution: This isn�t a cure. It is an apparently effective treatment that may one day substantially improved the quality of lives of spinal cord injury patients and may return some to the potential of mobility.

    I hope I am wrong, but I will bet that the mainstream media ignores the story. They will be too busy reporting on rats with improved mobility from embryonic stem cells....

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