Eighty US Nobel laureates have signed a letter to President Bush urging him not to block federal funding for research on stem cells from human embryo cells, citing the research possibilities and the cells’ potential to cure debilitating ailments like diabetes, AIDS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gherig’s disease. Stem cells are extracted from fertility clinics’ unused human embryos and are destined to be destroyed. In their letter to Bush, the Nobel laureates wrote, “Éit is important to understand that the cells being used in this research were destined to be discarded in any case. Under these circumstances, it would be tragic to waste this opportunity to pursue the work that could potentially alleviate human suffering.”
The letter comes at a crucial point in the fate of federally funded stem cell research. Currently, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is reviewing former President Clinton’s decision to fund stem cell research, and the deadline for scientists to apply to the National Institutes of Health for federal grants for stem cell research is just three weeks away. Supporters of stem cell research fear Bush will not wait for Thompson’s review and will sign an executive order stopping federal funding of the research. Twenty-five medical organizations including the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research support stem cell research. US anti-choice activists have fiercely protested against research using cells from aborted fetuses or fertility clinics’ surplus embryos.