Today's executive order making federal money once again available for research on human embryonic stem cells will accelerate biomedical research and hopefully bring us closer to cures for some of our most devastating diseases, says Rockefeller University president Paul Nurse.
"The new policy, which reverses eight years of restrictions on how biomedical research scientists interested in understanding stem cells can spend federal grant money, will have an important impact on the pace of this type of research," Nurse says. "It will also help many scientists make better use of limited research dollars by freeing them from the need to carefully separate privately funded experiments on non-Registry cell lines from those that are publicly funded." Under the old policy, scientists wishing to work on certain lines of stem cells were not permitted to use supplies or equipment paid for by federal grant money.
Human embryonic stem cells, which have the unique ability to become any type of cell in the body, are of great interest to scientists who hope to someday be able to prod them to repair damaged or diseased organs. Though the field holds great promise for treating a wide variety of conditions from diabetes to spinal cord injuries, there is still much work to be done before treatments based on stem cells could be widely available.
Several labs at Rockefeller work with human embryonic stem cells, including a line that was derived using funds exclusively from private sources under the old policy.
"When you're dealing with research that may take years to fully mature, it's important to have consistent policies in place that allow scientists to work without fear of political restrictions," says Nurse. "In addition to making money available to scientists studying embryonic stem cells, President Obama's executive order today will help encourage researchers to invest their efforts in this important area of research."