President Barack Obama has finally opened the door on the study of embryonic stem cell research — a move that some scientists have been waiting on for years and some activists have been fighting for decades.
Federally funded scientists can now work on projects using stem cell lines that clear a broadened set of National Institutes of Health regulatory guidelines. The institute requires that lines seeking approval must be obtained from embryos left over from in vitro fertility treatments — embryos that were destined to be destroyed. So far, the institute has approved 13 of these “ethical” lines.
Stem cells are a veritable New World in medical research. For anyone not familiar, there are two main types: totipotent embryonic stem cells, which have the ability to become any type of tissue, and pluripotent adult stem cells, which have the ability to become most types of tissue.
So far, treatments for a variety of maladies have been developed using adult stem cells taken from patients, and some are calling for strict use of the adult type only. Embryonic research, meanwhile, has found an ethical stem cell source: Fertility clinics already produce an overabundance of unneeded embryos; using what they would otherwise discard is the only way to do those embryos any justice.
There may be cures for diseases that have no other treatments waiting on the other side of this research. Forwarding that research should be a priority of the University of Minnesota in particular, as we have both the facilities and the talent to make the long-awaited dreams of those suffering from debilitating disease a reality.