U.S. scientists hail Obama´s decision on stem cell research

View:3136 Time:2009-03-16

LOS ANGELES, March 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. researchers have welcomed President Barack Obamas decision to lift a ban on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research and predicted that more states will have embryonic stem cell research centers as a result.

    Obama on Monday issued an executive order that allows federal money to fund expanded embryonic stem cell research.

    Professor Cheng Ming Chuong who leads a team of embryonic stem cell researchers at the University of Southern California said Wednesday that researchers in this field generally welcome President Obamas decision. To them, the lift of ban on federal funding is like a timely rain.

    He told Xinhua that the ban on federal funding has slowed down the pace of progress of U.S. scientists in this field. Some scientists have left the U.S. to work for other countries because of the lack of funding. Now scientists have seen the clear sky andsome top scientists who have left the country will possibly come back.

    Chuong is now leading a team of about 12 researchers on human embryonic stem cell, half of them are of Chinese origin. He said his team is conducting research on the regeneration of human skin and hair and with federal funding he could expand the research area.

    The professor said there are many ways to make the embryonic stem cell research beneficial to humans. He said it may take several years to have these researches applied to humans, but the lift of federal funding restrictions would certainly speed up the process.

    Shu Chien, Director of Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering at University of California, San Diego, said California researchers are lucky because the state adopted Proposition 71 several years ago to fund embryonic stem cell research.

    He said he is glad to see that the federal government will grant about 8.2 billion U.S. dollars on embryonic stem cell research, which will produce positive results in the research in the U.S.

    Chien said because of the federal ban on the research, facilities from research centers funded by federal money could not be used by researchers on human stem cell projects. To avoid violation of federal regulations, researchers had to work in two different facilities and labs, one was funded by the state, where they could do research on embryonic stem cells, and the other was funded by federal government, in which they could not touch human stem cells.

    Shu Chien is more optimistic now with funding from state and federal level. The Energy Department and Defense Department also have their own research funding and research centers, he added. The embryonic stem cell research in the U.S. will make rapid progress so that humans can benefit from its success, Chien said.

    California is one of the few states in the U.S. that have state funding for human embryonic stem cell research in addition to Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin.

    Iowa, Massachusetts and Missouri have made stem cell research legal but do not fund it. Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota ban embryonic stem cell research all together.

    However, even without state funding, researchers in many states are doing human stem cell research with private funding.

    Before President Obama lifted the ban, researchers in states that did not fund stem cell research could only use taxpayer money and stem cell lines created before Aug. 9, 2001.

    Although President Obamas action will make approximately 8.2 billion dollars available to the states for embryonic stem cell research, it could take a year or longer for the National Institute of Health (NIH) to begin awarding grants for the projects.

    Obamas order did not outline how stem cell research should be overseen.

Editor: Wang Guanqun
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