They thought the Obama administration would free-up federal funding for research, but now they say restrictions are actually tighter than ever and that could mean thousands of hours of work and millions of dollars in funding will be wasted.
"I believe that I will see him walk one day and it will be because of America's stem cell research programs," says Don Reed.
Reed is a big believer in stem cell research. His son, Roman, was paralyzed in a college football game. They were both at the White House, when President Obama lifted funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell testing established by the bush administration. It was meant to quicken the pace of research.
But now, as scientists, including those at Stanford, are applying for federal dollars for their studies, they are finding stem cell lines that were okay during the Bush administration aren't necessarily usable now.
"Scientists are impatient to get this going," said Christopher Scott from Stanford University.
The H9 stem cell line is one of the most popular approved for testing during the Bush years. It is used for research on spinal cord injuries, heart disease, and diabetes.
"There's a possibility that the lines like H9 and others on Bush registry simply won't be up to ethical snuff," said Scott.
That is exactly what Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics and Culture wants to know.
Now the feds also want proof of consent from the original donors and they want to know where the line started. H9 may have come from Israel.
"What they need to do is follow the new guidelines which they've known about for some time and file the necessary applications," said Lahl.
Tracing lines could take months or even years. Time many cannot afford.
"Imagine if you could not move, think what your life would be like and then to have someone say well, there's a paper work problem that's going to put off the cure for a while, that would be hard to take," said Reed.
Reed hopes the president will find a way to grandfather in old stem cell lines. In the meantime, researchers can apply for state grants instead of federal dollars.