Scientists and ethicists are anticipating more federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research after President Bush leaves office next year.
None of the presidential candidates are as strict as Bush, who has used an executive order to keep embryonic research from receiving federal money. Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain each voted last year for an unsuccessful bill that would have overturned that order.
But while the Democratic candidates have been firm in their support of embryonic stem-cell research, McCain has not.
"We don't know what McCain will do," said Nigel Cameron, president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future. "He signed on to efforts to overturn the President's policy with a heavy heart and a lot of thought. He's had a totally prolife voting record."
Even if the future President does loosen up federal funds, experts say it probably will not be a boon for embryonic stem-cell research.
"There is already an enormous amount of private and state funding for it," said science policy analyst Michelle Kirtley, a staff member of Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.). "They already have access to significantly more money than NIH [the National Institutes of Health] would grant, even if the funding restrictions were completely lifted. I don't see funding making a huge amount of difference."
In addition, scientists are focusing on alternatives to embryonic research, like the discovery that adult cells can be reprogrammed to be as flexible as embryonic cells. "Since November more than 100 different stem cell lines have been developed this way," Kirtley said. "[Scientists] know the rules are likely to be more lax soon, so I don't think they'd be jumping on this other reprogramming bandwagon if they ...1
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