In a June 20 article, The Washington Post reported that President Bush, upon vetoing a bill to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, "plans to issue an executive order today to encourage government agencies to support research that offers the promise of creating medically useful stem cells without destroying human embryos." But the article did not report -- as the Post itself did on June 7 -- that some of the scientists involved in one of the research methods Bush is touting as an alternative to embryonic stem cell research have themselves called for passage of the bill Bush just vetoed, which, as the Post reported on June 7, "would give federally funded researchers access to embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics."
The June 20 Post article reported that Bush planned to veto an embryonic stem cell funding bill and, at the same time, issue the executive order. Among the research breakthroughs that the administration is touting, as the Post noted, is one in which scientists used the skin cells of mice to develop cells with regenerative properties similar to that of a mouse's embryonic stem cell:
President Bush, under increasing pressure to relax his restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, plans to issue an executive order today to encourage government agencies to support research that offers the promise of creating medically useful stem cells without destroying human embryos, according to senior administration officials.
Recent advances have increased optimism that stem cells with potential for treating diseases or even developing into human organs for transplants can be developed from skin cells, amniotic fluid or even cells salvaged from dead embryos.
There is some evidence that cells with the capacity to divide and grow into many different tissues exist in the placenta, umbilical cord blood and bone marrow. Winnowing them from other cells and successfully pushing them down a path toward medically useful purposes, however, has been difficult.
Part of the problem is that some of these "adult" stem cells are not as primitive and potent as those extracted from an embryo when it is at the stage of a barely visible ball of cells.
This month, three research teams announced that they were able to coax skin cells from mice to revert into more primitive and potent cells -- the equivalent of going back in time. This raises the possibility that everyone may possess the raw material to make stem cells with the same therapeutic potential as ones from embryos.
Yet the article did not note that scientists involved in the mouse skin cell studies have urged the passing of the bill Bush vetoed. In its June 7 article on the scientists' findings, the Post reported that, despite the breakthrough, the scientists supported federal funding for embryonic stem cell research:
The findings have generated tumult on Capitol Hill, where the House is set to vote today on a bill that would loosen President Bush's 2001 restrictions on the use of human embryos in stem cell research.
Acutely aware that their new work could undermine that key political goal, the scientists cautioned that their success with mouse cells does not guarantee quick success with human cells. They called for Congress to pass the bill, which would give federally funded researchers access to embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics.
Indeed, as Media Matters for America has noted, one of the study's lead scientists, Rudolf Jaenisch, offered support for embryonic stem cell research a June 6 press release despite his group's findings:
"[A]ll these results are preliminary and proof of principle. It will be awhile before we know what can and can't be done in humans. Human embryonic stem cells remain the gold standard for pluripotent cells, and it is a necessity to continue studying embryonic stem cells throughout traditional means."