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Northwestern Scientists Welcome President Obama's Executive Order on Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research

March 10, 2009 | by Marla Paul

Listen to John Kessler, M.D., chair of neurology and the Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology, discuss President Obama's executive order regarding stem cell research

CHICAGO --- Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine scientists who do research with stem cells said they were relieved that politics would no longer interfere with science, after President Barack Obama signed an executive order Monday to permit federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

"It's nice to see politics are no longer intervening in science, where they never should have in the first place," said John Kessler, M.D., chair of neurology and the Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology at the Feinberg School. "This is a good time, not just for stem cell biologists, but all scientists. This restores the integrity of the separation between politics and science."

Kessler said he was slightly concerned the public will think new treatments instantly will appear. "Of course, they won't," he said. "It will take a lot of work to make them happen."

Mary Hendrix, president and scientific director of the Children's Memorial Research Center and professor of cancer biology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, said she was grateful the new legislation would open up much needed federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.

"We now can apply for federal funding to study the new human embryonic stem cell lines that we developed with state funding from the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute," Hendrix said. "We were restricted in how many researchers could study them because we didn't have sufficient funds to complete our study. This executive order will now allow us to pursue studies on these new stem cell lines."

Hendrix said these studies will range from examining possible causes of developmental disorders and certain diseases to the eventual development of new therapeutic strategies with the stem cells.

"It's wonderful to see science restored to its rightful place," added Laurie Zoloth, professor of medical humanities and bioethics and director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society at the Feinberg School.

"The goal of scientific research has always been to alleviate suffering," Zoloth said. "Over the last decade, we've seen science blocked by ideas largely political, and, while deeply felt, they should not be the guiding principle. This legislation allows the future of stem cell research to be guided by the principles of science, free speech and the common good."
Topics: Research