Stem Cell Advocates May Be Disappointed

Washington Matters

Stem Cell Advocates May Be Disappointed

For all the talk of President-elect Obama moving quickly to reverse the ban on most federal funding for stem cell research, a real turnaround is going to take years. In the next few months, there are sure to be many areas in which Obama and his supporters find that change is neither quick nor easy, and stem cell research is one of them.

Obama will reverse the U.S. policy with the stroke of his pen within days, maybe hours, of being sworn in. But that's only a symbolic first step in getting federal dollars to people doing the research with embryonic stem cells. Since President Bush banned federal backing on moral grounds, experts in the field have fled the National Institutes of Health, which must review and approve research proposals. Hiring them back -- or finding new ones -- will take time. Finding money for the research will take even longer. In the meantime, states will continue trying to fill the gap, but they're short on cash, too.

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Experts say the U.S. has lost its edge on stem cell work to other countries, but they're confident that American scientists will catch up eventually. And they believe the research will lead to new treatments for cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and many other diseases, but it'll be a decade or more until they're ready for use on a wide scale.