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Scientists Heartened at Prospect of End to Stem Cell Ban
Date:2/9/2009

Move by Obama expected to kick-start efforts to unlock therapeutic potential

MONDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are rejoicing over President Barack Obama's anticipated lifting of the eight-year ban on embryonic stem cell research imposed by his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

The anticipation moved one step closer to reality Thursday, with media reports that Obama gave House Democrats at a closed-door Virginia retreat a "guarantee" that he would sign an executive order overturning Bush's policy.

"It's going to remove an embarrassment for American science," said Dr. Darwin Prockop, director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White Hospital in Temple. "It's a statement that we're going to again believe in science."

Yet those same experts are aware that the sobering state of the economy could impose its own restrictions on this type of research.

"This clearly is a very important part of our medical future," said Paul Sanberg, distinguished professor of neurosurgery and director of the University of South Florida Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa. "[But] to clear the path for this without giving additional money to the National Institutes of Health will be disappointing. I hope the stimulus package also includes an increase in embryonic stem cell funding."

Sanberg also expressed concern that any monies redirected to stem cell research could divert funds from other critical avenues of research. "If it's a normal competitive process, it will take money away from other programs," he said.

Stem cell research received a big boost in January, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever human trial using embryonic stem cells as a medical treatment.

Geron Corp., a California-based biotech company, was given the OK to implant embryonic stem c
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