On Monday, President Barack Obama lifted a nearly 8-year ban on the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. The ban was enacted by former president George W. Bush, limiting researchers to a small number of stem cell lines created prior to August, 2001.
The lifting of federal restrictions on stem cell research is being heralded in the scientific community. Federal funds from agencies like the National Institutes of Health are one of the primary engines of basic research leading to medical and healthcare breakthroughs. Most experts expect the pace of stem cell research to increase significantly, though the promise of treatments or cures is still years away. The first human trial of a spinal cord injury therapy derived from embryonic stem cells was just approved by the FDA in January.
Not only will there be new funding available for stem cell research, but those researchers who relied on state or private dollars to fund their stem cell research programs during the ban will no longer have to run duplicate labs or facilities to separate their privately-funded research from that which was federally funded.