Obama brings hope to stem cell research

January 19, 2009 7:59:37 PM PST
President-elect Barack Obama has promised to end federal restrictions on stem cell research. A lot of advocates are eagerly waiting for that to happen because they believe stem cell research could help cure them.

Eight years ago the Bush administration all but ended stem cell research by restricting federal financing.

California voters kept the work alive here with passage of Proposition 71, which provided state funding for stem cell research. But Obama has promised to clear the way for federal funding once again. It's the best news Fremont resident Roman Reed has had in eight years.

"It's so exciting, the hope. I just feel renewed energy knowing that Barack Obama cares, knowing that we're going to be able to put aside the past-partisan stem cell politics. We'll actually be able to put the research first... care about the people that are suffering," said Reed.

Reed was a promising 19-year-old Chabot College linebacker when a tackle broke his neck and changed his life. Now 34, Reed has use of his hands. He has two children with a third on the way, and he now has new hope that stem cell research will help him walk again.

"When you're dealing with complicated pioneering research, it is fits and starts. So we don't know exactly when the cures will come, but the cures will come down the road," said Reed.

Stem cells hold promise for curing all kinds of diseases. The most promising results require embryonic stem cells. Scientists get them from frozen embryos that would otherwise be thrown away.

The Vatican just reaffirmed its opposition to stem cell research in a document released last month. It refers to an embryo as a "human being in his or her embryonic state," not a cluster of cells subject to "utilitarian treatment" in a lab.

Terry Thompson is with the Life Legal Defense Foundation. He says Obama will not be walking a fine line on this one.

"I don't think it's a fine moral line, I think it's a real bright red line. On one side you're going to do research that kills embryos, and on the other side you don't do it," said Thompson.