President Barack Obama signed an executive order this morning reversing the federal funding ban on human embryonic stem cell research put in place by former President George W. Bush.
This type of research is critical at the University of Wisconsin, where several stem cell discoveries have taken place. UW researcher James Thomson, who derived the first human embryonic stem cell line in 1998, released the following statement about the implications of Obama's action:
"The executive action by President Obama lifting restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research is a welcome milestone for our field. The decision will help restore America as a leader in this field and is a clear path out of a policy thicket that has slowed the pace of discovery for eight years. It also removes a stigma that has discouraged many bright young people from embarking on careers in stem cell research. Research on embryonic stem cells remains critically important. We have many unanswered questions, and the only way to realize the full potential of embryonic stem cells and other types of stem cells is a level playing field and unfettered inquiry. Human-induced pluripotent stem cells—the transformed adult cells that seem to mimic the qualities of embryonic stem cells—would not have been possible without research on human embryonic stem cells. We are grateful to President Obama for the courage of his decision as well as for the broad bipartisan support out work has received in Washington."
In November 2007, Thomson also found a way to make adult skin cells act like human embryonic stem cells. For his research, Thomson was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.
(photo via NYTimes)