Remember when President George W. Bush limited federal funding of new embryonic stem cell lines back when the 21st century was yet young? In part President Bush imposed his limitations because, as he explained:
I also believe human life is a sacred gift from our Creator. I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe as your President I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world. And while we're all hopeful about the potential of this research, no one can be certain that the science will live up to the hope it has generated.
Alas, embryonic stem cells have not lived up to the hope they generated. And let's not forget the halcyon days when the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives passed the Human Cloning Prohbition Act that would have outlawed even private research and treatments using cloned embryonic stem cells. Again, this hope for creating perfect transplant cells and tissues has also proved vain since no cloned human embryos have ever been produced.
Now for the record, President Barack Obama has tossed out his predecessor's executive order and the National Institutes of Health are funding research using new stem cell lines. From the Washington Post:
The National Institutes of Health authorized 11 lines of cells produced by scientists at the Children's Hospital in Boston and two lines created by researchers at the Rockefeller University in New York. All were obtained from embryos left over by couples seeking treatment for infertility….
Another 96 lines are awaiting vetting, including 20 lines will be considered by the advisory committee on Friday, and researchers have indicated at least 254 more will be submitted for approval, Collins said.
The NIH has already authorized 31 grants for about $21 million for research on human embryonic stem cells that were contingent on new lines passing government muster. Wednesday's approval will allow those scientists to decide whether to begin using the funding for those lines or await the approval of other, more appropriate cells. The grants are for a variety of research, including work aimed at developing cells that could be used to treat heart and nervous system diseases.
My selfish question: When will the FDA get around to approving clinical trials using stem cells developed using private research funds?
Disclosure: Why selfish? I own several hundred shares of the biotech company Geron which I purchased with my own money. So far I've only lost money.