Last night President Bush authorized research on stem cell lines already extracted from embryos, but prohibited federal funding for research on new lines. While Bush claims that 60 stem cell lines are already available for research, many scientists dispute this claim, including the chairman of cellular and molecular biology at Harvard University, Douglas Melton. A stem cell expert, Melton said that the number of existing stem cell lines was “closer to 10.” Dan Perry, president of the Alliance for Aging Research said that the existing cell lines are “woefully short of representing the genetic diversity of a nation of 200 million Americans, not to mention the rest of the world.”
Currently many of the existing cell lines are owned by private companies, which may choose not to make these cell lines available to universities and public research facilities. The chairman of the department of developmental and cell biology at UC Irvine, Dr. Arthur Lander explains, “We are taking a risk as a nation and as a society that private entities will now develop therapies that would have developed publicly.”
Scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as UCLA, Caltec and USC Institute for Genetic Medicine have joined those publicly criticizing the limits of Bushs proposal.
In reaction to Bush’s decision, Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stated, “these restrictions will inevitably slow medical progress and impede research for finding treatments and cures for serious illnesses. Rather than being careful and cautious, Bush’s decision is irresponsible. Americans should not be fooled: this is no compromise. Bush is allowing political calculations to interfere with science and medical advances. How did the United States come to a position that the well-being of a few frozen cells is more important than alleviating the suffering of millions of living human beings in the US and worldwide?”