Obama to reverse limits on stem cell work

March 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order on Monday reversing restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

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This is an exciting time for supporters of, and scientists involved in, embryonic stem cell research. Next week, the president will reverse the Bush Administration ban on using federal money for that kind of science. A Bay Area family heads to Washington to be with the president when it happens.

The Reeds of Fremont are packed up. This family of stem cell activists is heading to Washington D.C. where they've been invited to watch the president's signing ceremony. On Monday, President Obama will reverse the policy of the Bush Administration, by lifting restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

"Under President John F. Kennedy, we were the first to walk on the moon. Under President Obama we'll be the first to walk on Earth," says Roman Reed, a stem cell research advocate.

Roman suffered a spinal cord injury 15 years ago playing college football. He says federal funding will accelerate progress made by California researchers, who for four years, have been receiving money from Proposition 71.

"For too long California has been the de facto national leader because the federal policy was not there, now under President Obama the federal policy will be able to jump in and help find cures for stem cell research," says Roman.

Embryonic stem cells are master cells that can morph into any cell of the body. Scientists hope they can lead to cures for diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. But in order to retrieve the cells, researchers must destroy the embryo, which is why Bill May of Catholics for the Common Good disagrees with the new Obama policy.

"He's pushing the kind of stem cell research that requires killing human beings and it's obsolete. They're able to develop the same kind of stem cells in ethical ways," says May.

While there are different types of stem cells, so-called adult stem cells for instance, scientists say embryonic stem cells are the most flexible and the most promising. Giving the reeds hope that one day, they'll see their son walk again.

"Like a long distance runner, we are braced for the long struggle. My son is not walking yet. This is an important thing, but this fight isn't over until my son walks," says Don Reed, Roman's father and a stem cell research advocate.

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