Unfortunately, politics have played a relatively large role in stem cells, which has left many people feeling powerless to influence the progress of this potential therapy. With politics comes funding – or lack thereof – and religious and other personal views tend to get into the mix as well.
US Policies on Stem Cells
The US has changed over the years in terms of political stem cell views. In the earlier days of stem cell research, the US played a more active role. In the last decade, however, the US has significantly fallen behind as stem cell research has continued to forge ahead in Britain and other areas around the world.
A key reason for the US falling ‘behind’ was due to the Bush administration policies on stem cell research. Many cited these policies as highly personally charged ones that were mostly impacted by strong religious and anti-abortion views.
As such, funding for embryonic stem cell research – thought to be the most promising – was virtually at a standstill. Discarded embryos from failed in vitro fertilisation procedures became a challenge to obtain for research purposes and existing stem cell lines similarly became difficult to access.
Obama and Stem Cell Changes
Obama, the new president in the US is set to reverse the vast majority of stem cell policies that were in effect when Bush was in power. By removing restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, he hopes to fuel the progress of US researchers into promising therapies using stem cells.
Diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s will hopefully be closer to a cure or treatments to slow their destruction. The news has been welcomed by scientists around the world as they are excited to finally access the tools needed to study stem cells while also obtaining funding to support their research efforts.
Opponents of Stem Cell Research
There are, however, opponents of the policy reversals who cite that it is unethical to use embryonic stem cells. Instead, they believe that research should focus on adult stem cells, which do not involve the destruction of am embryo. Arguments over adult stem cells usually suggest that the quality and potential of adult stem cells is not comparable to embryonic stem cells. In this way, it is thought that embryonic stem cells are more likely to result in effective stem cell therapies for disease.
Another positive effect of the policy changes is that countries such as Britain – while committed to stem cell research everywhere in the world – are scrambling to ensure that their funding and expertise are in place to continue being a leader in stem cell research. Science has always been fraught with competition and will continue to do so, particularly in the area of stem cell research.
Scientists in Britain want to be sure that they don’t fall behind in the quest to find effective stem cell therapies. With the US set to speed ahead now, Britain may ultimately achieve greater progress with a dose of healthy competition.
Future of Stem Cell Research
For now, it looks as though the US may accelerate its stem cell research and if anything, give other countries in the world a strong challenge to continue their own research and work into advancing stem cell therapies. Hopefully, ethical progress can continue, which can then bring treatments to the many people around the world who suffer from devastating diseases.