"It holds a great deal of promise for freeing this whole area of research from those two main sources of friction," Charo says. The discovery also creates questions about the future of government funding for traditional embryonic stem cell research, which in recent years has been a contentious political issue.
"It's going to fuel those who call for preferential federal funding only for non-embryonic stem cell research and it will certainly complicate any efforts to expand funding for embryonic stem cell research at the federal level," she says. Twice, Congress has passed legislation to overturn the Bush administration policy on embryonic stem cell research and allow funding for research using any embryonic stem cell lines, not just those designated by the administration in 2001. Twice, the president has vetoed it.
"Any piece of research like this that suggests that we can get cell lines that are equally usable without having to go through an embryo in intermediate steps is going to undermine any effort on the part of Congress to overturn the Bush policy," she says.
The latest discovery, however, is likely to suggest avenues of research that are already eligible for federal funding. Recently, the White House directed the National Institutes of Health to emphasize the funding of research that examines alternative means for obtaining pluripotent cell lines whose usefulness is comparable to that of human embryonic stem cells.
"No matter how well this new technique can be used for many of the disease-research and disease-treatment applications foreseen for embryonic stem cell and cloning research, however, calls for criminalization or wholesale de-funding of embryonic stem cell and cloning research are not warranted," Charo adds. "Criminalizing any area of science, as opposed to merely regulating it, would be contrary to the political and constitutional traditions
|Contact: R. Alta Charo|
University of Wisconsin-Madison