Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Stem Cell Guidelines -- Freedom for Researchers

President Barack Obama's Ked's are smokin' -- he's sprinting through his first six weeks in office, keeping a multitude of campaign promises, one of which was to establish new Federal stem-cell research guidelines, overturning the previous administration's policies. He did exactly that, taking the shackles off researchers across the nation and creating a storm of controversy.

The move was a clear message that science is once again a government priority. Obama said that "his Administration would make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." The executive order coincided with a directive to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to "develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making."

Nick Kotov is a Michigan Engineering professor in the departments of Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering. He's conducting stem-cell research that would result in new approaches to the treatment of neurodegenerative disease. He has nothing but praise for Obama's move. "This change is much welcomed and necessary," he said. "When ideology and/or politics meddles with science and common sense, the population of this country suffers, the economy steadily declines, and education becomes deficient. Removal of restrictions on stem cell research can lead to effective cures for multiple diseases. New medical technology based on stem cells is much needed for the Michigan economy."

Michigan Engineering Associate Professor Peter Ma explained his work, saying that
his lab "develops temporary artificial extracellular matrices (scaffolds) for stem cells to regenerate tissues and organs, aiming for regenerative therapies. We also develop delivery systems within scaffolds to present signaling molecules locally to direct the fate of stem cells in combination with the scaffold design. These research directions have been exciting and fruitful in our lab." Ma, who's associated with Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and the School of Dentistry, said that the new Federal guidelines "will allow us to choose the types of stem cells that are most promising for targeted therapeutic applications rather than the types of stem cells that were approved under the old guidelines. I believe that the new guidelines will give scientists and biomedical engineers the freedom to focus more on the science and technology development."

Of the many tool that researchers need to conduct their work, the most important of those tools is freedom to work without restrictions. In keeping one of his more controversial promises, President Obama opened up avenues that, for the past eight years, have been lurching along in the slow lane.

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1 comment:

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