In 2001, President Bush declared it illegal to spend federal funds on stem cell research, a blow that the American scientific community had been dreading for some time. Stem cells are reputed to have the ability to grow into any bodily tissue, therefore making possible the successful treatment of numerous diseases and disabilities. Bush, however, deemed the research unethical as it involves the creation of an embryo through a process known as therapeutic cloning.
Therapeutic cloning, while controversial, is not the same as reproductive cloning, although it involves some of the same procedures. The process is essentially very simple. First, a normal egg cell (donated by a woman) has its nucleus, or centre, removed. The egg nucleus is replaced by a normal nucleus, that is the center of another normal body cell, such as a skin cell. The modified cell, called a blastocyst, produces the stem cells necessary for tissue regeneration.
So what did the ban on federal funding for this method mean for American researchers? The result was no more tax money to expand stem cell research. Scientists could only gain funding to study what had already been discovered prior to 2001. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts has quite possibly changed all of that. His work with mice has revealed the ability of a naturally produced embryo to fully develop into a healthy foetus after one cell was removed and cultured into various stem cells. The discovery has eliminated the need for therapeutic cloning, and means that stem cell researchers no longer need to create or destroy unnatural embryos for their studies.
Perhaps the ban will be lifted from federal funding. President Bush has yet to respond.
Sample, I. (2005, October 17). Challenge to Bush in new stem cell breakthrough. Guardian. Retrieved from http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/research/story/0,,1593999,00.html
Stem Cell Research Foundation. Frequently asked questions [web site]. Retrieved from http://www.stemcellresearchfoundation.org/About/FAQ.htm#9