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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

The Stem Cell Executive Order   (March 9, 2009)

President Obama today, March 9, 2009, increased hope throughout the medical community for future treatments of diabetes and many other disorders, as he reversed the misguided policy of the previous President, to allow much more flexibility in stem cell research, stating "scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles." (The President's complete remarks are available on-line at the White House website.)

In 2005, the NIH had issued a report about stem cells for diabetes; it concluded "However, most researchers agree that until a therapeutically useful source of human islet cells is developed, all avenues of research should be exhaustively investigated, including both adult and embryonic sources of tissue."

But as I had written on March 22, 2008, "US policy [throughout the Bush years] doesn't allow Federal funding for most embryonic stem cell research. Some states, and many other countries, are highly supportive of stem cell research, and I'd expect that the US government will reverse its present policy restricting use of embryonic stem cells, as all three major candidates for President say they are in favor of Federal funding." That was despite pleas from people such as Nancy Reagan, Ron Reagan, Mary Tyler Moore, the JDRF and the ADA, and more than 200 Members of Congress to expand stem cell research.

The ADA hailed today's signing, saying:

"The American Diabetes Association applauds President Obama for issuing an Executive Order that will advance stem cell research by lifting existing restrictions on the use of embryonic stem cells, while maintaining strict ethical guidelines.

"The ethical use of stem cell research holds the promise of accelerating medical advancements in many fields. This brings hope to the nearly 24 million American adults and children with diabetes who face its many complications including heart disease, amputation, and blindness. Diabetes is also deadly - it is a leading cause of death in the United States," said R. Paul Robertson, MD, President Medicine & Science, American Diabetes Association.

"The American Diabetes Association has long been a strong advocate for ending the current restrictions on stem cell research."

The JDRF also praised the decision:

"The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a leader in setting the agenda for diabetes research worldwide and the largest charitable funder and advocate of type 1 diabetes research, praised President Barack Obama for the Executive Order officially repealing the existing policy limiting federal research funding for embryonic stem cell research to cell lines established prior to August 9, 2001.

"We're very grateful to President Obama for setting in place a policy to fully explore this promising field of science," said new JDRF President and CEO, Dr. Alan Lewis. "President Obama's Executive Order is a strong signal to patients, scientists, and the nation that we have his full support to pursue science that may accelerate progress to new treatments and possible cures for diabetes."

And let me add my personal statement: Thank you, President Obama.

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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