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Life Finds a Way

By Brian | March 17, 2009 | Share on Facebook

An interesting juxtaposition of news articles over at The Speculist:

At this point, just about everyone knows that President Obama lifted the Stem Cell research ban imposed by George W. Bush at the beginning of his presidency. Less reported, though equally exciting is this story about a breakthrough in the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iSPC’s), which are stem cells derived from somatic cells in adults.

Stem cells derived from adults are attractive for several reasons: they’re far easier to collect, they avoid the moral objections held by some about embryonic stem cells, and perhaps most importantly, they represent stem cells that exactly match the genes of the person in need of treatment.

So, good news all around. But here’s the part that really bends the mind:

What role did [George W. Bush's] restrictions play in inducing some researchers to begin working on iPSCs? Seeing as the work described [in the linked article] comes from Canada and the UK, it would be difficult to draw a direct line. But it would be, to say the very least, ironic if the much-hated stem cell research funding ban actually played a positive role in moving us towards a better solution.

This is another case of unintended consequences from government incentive programs. Those who oppose embryonic stem-cell research were generally seeking a ban on the this type of research altogether. The lack of funding in that area, though, has led (some) scientists to focus on ways to achieve the same results a different way. Would we have seen the benefits of stem-cell research sooner without the ban? Perhaps. But would anyone have ever focused on adult stem-cells if the ban hadn’t existed?

Topics: The Future is Now | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Life Finds a Way”

  1. Jeff Porten says at March 25th, 2009 at 10:21 pm :
    Brian –

    I don’t know who FutureBlogger is, but these are summary answers to the questions you raise, representing the scientific consensus as I understand it:

    1. Stem cells derived from adults are attractive for several reasons. And they are unattractive for many, many other reasons. It depends on the application. In general, embryonic cells are inherently much more powerful, and research into adult stem cells is years further behind, even with the boost given to them by Mr. Bush.

    2. What role did [George W. Bush's] restrictions play in inducing some researchers? Arguably, slim to none. What Bush did was divert the funding from the category of scientific endeavor that was believed to be the most fruitful, to a different one he liked better. This causes social Darwinism as scientists who want to stay with their research have to scramble to continue eating while they do so.

    Fact is, however pleasant the bedtime story would be that “George Bush lucked us into a whole new realm of science!”, these ideas predated him — in fact, they had to, in order for him to latch onto them as a pro-science fig leaf when he banned more promising research. Ideas with funding get discovered faster, but bad ideas with funding simply run into dead ends. Google “Lysenko” sometime.

    There are worthwhile things to pursue with adult stem cells, but the future with embryonic stem cells is revolutionary. It’s like comparing improved skin grafts to regrowing entire limbs. In fact, it’s exactly that.

    3. The lack of funding in that area, though, has led (some) scientists to focus on ways to achieve the same results a different way. Unfortunately for people who think this is a good idea, magical thinking is no more effective in science than it is in finance. So I’m hoping you’re not one of those people.

    4. Would we have seen the benefits of stem-cell research sooner without the ban? Absolutely, and you’re insane if you think otherwise. Just do the math on an eight-year delay to techniques that provide cures in 20 years. You’ve just moved your personal age from 60 to 70 when the treatment becomes available. So it would be a damned shame for anyone who’s unwise enough to die of those diseases during the Bush delay.

    5. But would anyone have ever focused on adult stem-cells if the ban hadn’t existed? Yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. You might not have ever heard of it, because it’s not controversial. But the people who read Science and Nature would have been more well-informed.

  2. Brian says at March 26th, 2009 at 12:03 am :
    Easy cowboy – I’m more than in favor of embryonic stem cell research.

    That said, you obviously didn’t click through the link I provided. Two reasons I say that: first, the title of the article is “Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Take a Big Step Towards Clinical Applications” and two, the link appears to be broken now. Here’s a link to the scientific part of the story (without FutureBlogger’s comments regarding Bush’s previous ban). Also, there’s a YouTube video by a Dr. Jerome Zack, professor of medicine, microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at UCLA, describing the exciting potential of isPC’s.

    Now, to your points:

    1) The article was about how one of the things that made them unattractive (the need to use viral vectors to reprogram the adult cells has been overcome, making them much safer for clinical applications.

    2) Here, you refute your own argument. Bush diverted funding from one field to another, and that other field has advanced faster because of it. I, personally, am glad that both fields have moved forward (more on that later), but it’s insanity to suggest that Bush didn’t encourage research into isPC’s. This smacks to me as a reflexive need to keep anything resembling credit for any kind of success (even accidental) from George W. Bush. And at this point – whatever, dude. Have at it..

    3) Again, if you read the linked article, you’ll see that this isn’t magical thinking. If you need more convincing, here’s Barack Obama from yesterday’s (3/24/09) press conference:

    I am glad to see progress is being made in adult stem cells. And if the science determines that we can completely avoid a set of ethical questions or political disputes, then that’s great. I have no investment in causing controversy. I’m happy to avoid it, if that’s where the science leads us. But what I don’t want to do is predetermine this based on a very rigid, ideological approach, and that’s what I think is reflected in the executive order that I signed.

    I think he’s got it exactly right here. Both ideas are worth pursuing, and there’s no reason to cause controversy just to “stick it to the other side.” We’ll leave that up the scientists.

    4) Your math is a bit faulty on this. When Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research failed to meet expectations, private funding increased dramatically. A member of my family (who I won’t name here out of respect for her privacy) tried to donate fertilized embryos that were going to be discarded a few years back, and had to call three different research studies before she found one that wasn’t already fully stocked with embryos. All three doctors told her that funding for research in that area was plentiful, mainly in reaction to the federal funding situation, and that couples who had tried IVF (successfully or unsuccessfully) were calling in droves to donate embryos. So I think the math here is much more of the NEA variety (with the federal government providing a very small amount of the money)

    5) Actually, because of my family’s experience with this, I am fairly well informed on the topic. What Bush’s policy did was not so much limit the funding or research on embryonic stem cells, but limit the endorsement of the practice by the government. Obama’s subsequent policy allows for more public discourse, which is also a great thing.

    I’m personally convinced that had embryonic stem cell research been fully embraced by Bush, adult stem cell research (which is travelling a longer road to achieve similar results) probably would have been much more of a side project than it was. I’m thankful for it’s progress, not so much on religious grounds, but for the simple fact that I can no longer provide my doctors of the future with my own stem cells. So if, when I’m 70, they need “Brian Greenberg” stem cells, I’ll be glad if they can whip up a batch for me.

    So yeah – I’ll give Bush a little credit here, but quickly and emphatically state that this wasn’t his intent and that it was more luck than design. Either way, this was, is, and will be an exciting area of science to watch develop as we get older.

  3. Jeff Porten says at March 30th, 2009 at 1:12 am :
    you obviously didn’t click through the link I provided.

    Well, as it happens, I did. Didn’t take any notes, but as I remember it, 70% of it was in direct contradiction to what I’ve been hearing from genetic scientists, and the remaining 30% was largely incoherent.

    The article was about how one of the things that made them unattractive (the need to use viral vectors to reprogram the adult cells has been overcome, making them much safer for clinical applications.

    I will admit to continued ignorance on this, in that I haven’t yet seen the argument as to why viral vectors are necessarily bad. We’ve been using that technique since the 18th century, and I’m fairly certain that it was a crucial method for RNA research for most of the 20th. I’ll take Zack’s word for it that an improvement has been made, though.

    Here, you refute your own argument. Bush diverted funding from one field to another, and that other field has advanced faster because of it.

    Yes, I’m glad to stipulate that I won’t give Bush credit for a scientific advance made through blind luck.

    Let’s put it this way: presume that there is some variable X which constitutes all the knowledge that had been gained through scientific research in an alternate universe where political concerns hadn’t meddled with setting their agenda. Actual scientific advance Y, in this universe where we allow ignorant religious buffoons to set our research agenda, is less than X.

    You want to postulate that, over in this corner, variable Z(1) in adult stem cell research is greater than the Z(0) we’d have had if Bush hadn’t meddled with X. This strikes me as fairly ludicrous. Yes, it is true that research follows the money, but much more often, research follows the results of successful research. I see no reason to presume that adult stem cell research would not have been pushed along—perhaps further than it actually was—had we allowed the work to progress unimpeded.

    This smacks to me as a reflexive need to keep anything resembling credit for any kind of success (even accidental) from George W. Bush. And at this point – whatever, dude. Have at it.

    Actually, it’s a reflexive need to point out that science works best when the scientists are in charge, and less so when it’s relegated to people blindly pissing into the wind at the results they would like to have. You want to attribute this opinion to other motives, well, have at it yourself.

    if you read the linked article, you’ll see that this isn’t magical thinking. If you need more convincing, here’s Barack Obama from yesterday’s (3/24/09) press conference

    Last time I checked, Obama has some interesting degrees, but a PhD in bioscience is not one of them. If you think I refer to him as an expert on this topic, you’re exceedingly mistaken.

    Your math is a bit faulty on this. When Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research failed to meet expectations, private funding increased dramatically.

    If you say so. Oddly, this contradicts pretty much everything I’ve heard for the last several years, and I consider myself reasonably well informed on scientific topics.

    funding for research in that area was plentiful, mainly in reaction to the federal funding situation, and that couples who had tried IVF (successfully or unsuccessfully) were calling in droves to donate embryos. So I think the math here is much more of the NEA variety (with the federal government providing a very small amount of the money)

    This might be the source of our discrepancy—IVF is a mature technology that is being used clinically, whereas 99% of genetic therapies and stem cell research are still very much in the basic science phase. So if you focus on IVF, you’ll hear a very different story than what you’ll hear if you listen to the university and NIH researchers about therapeutic techniques that are still in the lab. FWIW, the “very small amount” of money that is typically federally contributed to basic research is usually in the 50-80% range, as few private companies can do much here without disappointing their investors. Private capital and research is a big deal, but only when a technology or approach has moved out into applied science categories.

    What Bush’s policy did was not so much limit the funding or research on embryonic stem cells, but limit the endorsement of the practice by the government.

    Okay, I’m not sure how “shutting down all federal funding of all embryonic stem cell research except into the few lines that were pre-approved” does not constitute “limiting the funding or research”. Really, Brian, if you’ve been tracking this issue for the past few years, the percentage of scientists who believe that Bush was good for research is up there with the percentage of scientists who think climate change is naturally caused.

    I’m personally convinced that had embryonic stem cell research been fully embraced by Bush, adult stem cell research (which is travelling a longer road to achieve similar results) probably would have been much more of a side project than it was.

    If you’re personally convinced, then there’s not much I can do to prove the hypothetical which demonstrates that you’re wrong. Except that I’ve listened to plenty of researchers working on adult stem cell research who said that the loss of basic research funding impeded their work as well. Wish I had taken better footnotes at the time, so I’d have a reference. But check out Union of Concerned Scientists, or any of around a dozen other scientific advocacy groups, and I expect you’ll find I’m well backed-up in my assertion.

    but for the simple fact that I can no longer provide my doctors of the future with my own stem cells. So if, when I’m 70, they need “Brian Greenberg” stem cells, I’ll be glad if they can whip up a batch for me.

    Actually, you have plenty of stem cells in your bone marrow. What you don’t have any longer is embryonic stem cells. The reason why embryonic stem cells are important, of course, is that they can act as universal donor cells—and presumably the whole point of the next two decades of research is to discover how to avoid the problems of tissue rejection we have today with non-stem cellular transplantation.

    This, of course, is in contradiction with the polite fiction that “Brian Greenberg” cells are better for you, so if you wish to continue believing that, be my guest. From what I understand of the science, it’s a somewhat uninformed position. By the time you’re 70, since all of the DNA in your body will have undergone seven decades’ loss of plasticity and ongoing mutation effects, the goal is to have cellular repair material which is far far better for you than anything you can bring to the table.

    I’ll give Bush a little credit here, but quickly and emphatically state that this wasn’t his intent and that it was more luck than design.

    Any monkey can throw darts at a dartboard. Doesn’t imply I should be impressed by the darts that find the edge of the cork.

    Either way, this was, is, and will be an exciting area of science to watch develop as we get older.

    That’s one way to look at it. Another is to say that there’s a race going on between the pathogens and gerontological decay that will kill us and our loved ones, and the scientific advances that will extend our useful and productive lifespans. Stem cell research is one of the most promising technologies for getting us into extreme life extension, which means that there is likely to be a dividing line in the future between humans with “normal” life spans, and humans who can expect to live for centuries. Check out Aubrey de Grey’s TED Talks sometime for a primer.

    I think the odds are low that we’re personally going to get there—and I suspect that we’re too indoctrinated in the idea of current lifespans to deal with it if we do. But it’s a damn shame to allow superstition to delay that for everyone else, especially the damned unlucky who die just a bit too early. Personally, I’d just prefer not to drop dead in my early 60s from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or complications of diabetes. But that’s not the way I should probably bet.

  4. Brian says at March 30th, 2009 at 9:50 am :
    70% of it was in direct contradiction to what I’ve been hearing from genetic scientists, and the remaining 30% was largely incoherent.

    Yeah, technological breakthroughs have a way of being in direct contradiction to what you’ve heard in the past.

    Last time I checked, Obama has some interesting degrees, but a PhD in bioscience is not one of them. If you think I refer to him as an expert on this topic, you’re exceedingly mistaken.

    And if you think I was referring to him as an expert in bioscience, you are also mistaken. He is, however, an expert politician, and the statement I quoted above was about politics, not science. In any case, all three of us seem to agree with letting the scientists set the direction for science.

    This might be the source of our discrepancy—IVF is a mature technology that is being used clinically, whereas 99% of genetic therapies and stem cell research are still very much in the basic science phase. So if you focus on IVF, you’ll hear a very different story than what you’ll hear if you listen to the university and NIH researchers about therapeutic techniques that are still in the lab.

    Um, Jeff? IVF is not a stem cell therapy. Comparing IVF to stem cell research is like comparing apples to concrete.

    IVF is, however, the primary source of fertilized embryos for embryonic stem cell research, which is what led my family member to contact said researchers in an effort to help. And if three of them all characterized the research in the same way (independently and without prompting), then perhaps the 70% of things you’re reading that disagree with them is leading you astray?

    Okay, I’m not sure how “shutting down all federal funding of all embryonic stem cell research except into the few lines that were pre-approved” does not constitute “limiting the funding or research”. Really, Brian, if you’ve been tracking this issue for the past few years, the percentage of scientists who believe that Bush was good for research is up there with the percentage of scientists who think climate change is naturally caused.

    Ah, now we get to the heart of the matter. I should point out that, despite it’s disappointing scope, Bush’s decision to fund embryonic stem cell research for the existing lines was the first such federal funding in history. The fact that you refer to an increase from $0 to non-$0 as “limiting” speaks volumes to your motivations here.

    This isn’t about “Bush good for research” vs. “Bush bad for research.” This is about how research has developed over time, inclusive of all external influences inclduing, but not limited to, government policy.

    Except that I’ve listened to plenty of researchers working on adult stem cell research who said that the loss of basic research funding impeded their work as well.

    I’m not aware of any limits put on adult stem cell research. In fact, adult stem cell research was touted for eight years as the “moral” way to do stem cell research. Could you cite a source here? The Union of Concerned Scientists has only two articles on their site that mention stem cells (here and here), and neither one even mentions adult stem cell research.

    From what I understand of the science, it’s a somewhat uninformed position. By the time you’re 70, since all of the DNA in your body will have undergone seven decades’ loss of plasticity and ongoing mutation effects, the goal is to have cellular repair material which is far far better for you than anything you can bring to the table.

    Except that the biggest hurdle in organ transplant is rejection, and the odds of rejection drop dramatically when you use the patient’s own DNA. My source here is the mountain of Core Blood literature I was given just before both of my sons were born, all claiming that blood from their own placenta was better than any embryonic stem cell for this very reason. The argument against it, at the time, was the rapid progress of research in this area, and the likelihood that in fifty years, their options would be a lot broader than core blood. Articles like the one in this post, your objections notwithstanding, confirm that theory.

  5. Jeff Porten says at April 4th, 2009 at 3:49 am :
    Yeah, technological breakthroughs have a way of being in direct contradiction to what you’ve heard in the past.

    I’m quite aware of that kind of technological breakthrough. What I’m saying is that you haven’t even begun to make the case that this is one of them. So far, you seem to be talking about a promising technique for replication of adult stem cells — if you’re saying diddly about the application of adult stem cells, then yes, by all means, start being more coherent about it. All I’ve gotten so far is a vague statement from UC Berkeley and half an abstract from Nature.

    To state the Jeff bias clearly: I subscribe to a lot of science news feeds. When a breakthrough occurs, I usually hear about it three times before breakfast. This research didn’t make a peep on that radar. I’m not saying it’s perfect; I’m just saying that it leaves me a bit skeptical until I hear more about what you’re pointing to.

    Um, Jeff? IVF is not a stem cell therapy. Comparing IVF to stem cell research is like comparing apples to concrete.

    Yes. I brought this up because I thought that you had your head up your ass, and were making this comparison yourself. (Cf. the paragraph you wrote starting “4) Your math….”) If you had your head up your ass in some alternate direction, or if your head is not, in fact, in your ass, then I’ll chalk it up to miscommunication — although your suggestion that this is equivalent to an NEA grant leaves me doubtful.

    IVF is, however, the primary source of fertilized embryos for embryonic stem cell research, which is what led my family member to contact said researchers in an effort to help.

    Oh, is that what we’re talking about? Because that’s exactly what Bush’s law prevented. You see, even if those embryos are guaranteed to spend the remainder of their octocellular existence at thirty degrees Kelvin, W in his wisdom determined that doing any experimental work with such embryos is killin’ off the babies. Perhaps that’s why you were told they weren’t needed? Might have been that there was already more material than private funding could handle, while the foreign research which was outpacing us had no need of American embryos.

    I should point out that, despite it’s disappointing scope, Bush’s decision to fund embryonic stem cell research for the existing lines was the first such federal funding in history. The fact that you refer to an increase from $0 to non-$0 as “limiting” speaks volumes to your motivations here.

    Ah, here we go. I’d like you to provide a citation for your claim that there was no federal funding for stem cell research prior to August 9, 2001. Because I think you’re buying into a seriously large load of crap when you say that.

    That said, I’ve spent the last hour looking for a specific reference to use as a citation for what I’m about to say, and everything from 2002-2003 has been swamped in 2009 query results. As a generic reference, though, this radio debate might be a good starting point if you can spare an hour. You might notice that my argument tends to track with the UPenn genetics professor, whereas your argument tends to track with the guy from the Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    In any case, my understanding of the impact of the Bush ban:

    1. Prior to August 2001, federal funding was a key part of the genetics research that led to embryonic stem cells becoming a political issue. Again, something between 50% and 80% of all basic research is federally funded; prior to the ban, there’s no evidence that I know of which indicates that genetics research was somehow exempt.

    2. After the ban was put into place, the effect was not only for all future grant applications, but retroactive to past grants and existing equipment. If you purchased a gene sequencer for generic research, you couldn’t use it for banned science. Many laboratories, for this reason, had to keep separate sets of equipment. It was pretty much like separating meat and dairy in a kosher kitchen.

    3. Art Caplan, head of UPenn’s bioethics department, states here that “after eight years of zero-budget funding of embryonic stem cell research, it is hardly fair and completely disingenuous for critics to point to the practice and wonder why it lags four decades behind government-funded adult stem cell research.” This at least implies to me that your argument about no federal funding is probably, at best, an extreme stretch to support a pro-ban position. (I.e., all pre-2001 funding which led to or involved embryonic stem cell research is simply classified under another name.)

    That said, I’ll admit that I’d far prefer to have provided you with a clear link of what Bush actually shut down, which was in federally-funded progress prior to his ban. If I find that reference, I’ll add it.

    I’m not aware of any limits put on adult stem cell research. In fact, adult stem cell research was touted for eight years as the “moral” way to do stem cell research. Could you cite a source here?

    My bad for pointing you to UCS; that was off the top of my head without Google. Likewise, the statement that “research is good for more research” is also off the top of my head, since it’s pretty much been the founding principle of science since Francis Bacon come up with it in 1620. Essentially, if you outlaw the study of gravity, you’re going to have a hell of a time building an airplane. Do I really need to provide you a citation for that?

    Anyway, I’ll refer you again to that radio debate I cited earlier. My premise isn’t that adult research was “limited”. My premise is that one of the engines of its progress was shut down, because what is learned from embryonic cells is useful for other forms of research as well. Your premise that the extra money made it better is unfalsifiable, as is my premise that it would have progressed further absent the ban.

    Except that the biggest hurdle in organ transplant is rejection, and the odds of rejection drop dramatically when you use the patient’s own DNA.

    Yes, absolutely. That is, if you’re talking about transplants in 2009. One of the promises of stem cell research is to build cellular structures with no alien character for the body to reject. Cf. an unlimited supply of universal blood donations.

    (Incidentally, while I was writing this paragraph I’ve got the radio interview playing, and the Conference on Catholic Bishops just raised exactly this point, which is being pretty well destroyed. If you listen to it, I won’t have to transcribe it.)

    My source here is the mountain of Core Blood literature I was given just before both of my sons were born, all claiming that blood from their own placenta was better than any embryonic stem cell for this very reason.

    You’re talking about this, yes? I’m not an expert, for obvious reasons. But yes, at the current state of research, these are useful cells to have banked, for the same reason it would be useful for us all to have a few clones socked away to provide us with new organs. One of these, some of us can have.

    That said, your kids’ own placental cells are great, provided that they’re not suffering from a genetic illness. If they are, more of the same stuff that got them sick is not the way to go; what you want is a better set of cells from someone else, which have been scrubbed down for universal implantation.

    When you get into more advanced treatments of the future, such as cellular rejuvenation and life extension, no one knows what the raw materials will be. Might be cord blood, might be something built from scratch from Shigechiyo Izumi’s liver. Seems to me that the smart bet is to work on both.

    Which I know we both agree upon, which is why I’m finding it so blisteringly infuriating that you’re bending over backwards to “give Bush his due” for the “astonishing progess” we’ve had to date. Best we can say is that the decade wasn’t a total loss, and the credit for that is certainly not his due.

    And for the record — if and when Obama shuts down or promotes a particular branch of science for political purposes, I’ll be on his ass just as much as I’m on Bush’s. Right now it’s looking like that place is going to be massive subsidies for ethanol at the expense of other alternative fuels.

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  9. Brian says at April 5th, 2009 at 2:41 am :
    Oh, is that what we’re talking about? Because that’s exactly what Bush’s law prevented. You see, even if those embryos are guaranteed to spend the remainder of their octocellular existence at thirty degrees Kelvin, W in his wisdom determined that doing any experimental work with such embryos is killin’ off the babies. Perhaps that’s why you were told they weren’t needed? Might have been that there was already more material than private funding could handle, while the foreign research which was outpacing us had no need of American embryos.

    Not sure what to say here, other than you’re just plain wrong. Bush’s law did not ban any research of any kind. All it did was prohibit the federal government from funding research on embryonic stem cells that did not exist before 8/9/01. Embryonic stem cell research was, and continues to be, legal in the United States.

    The first two researchers my family member spoke to were fully funded and well into their research using donated IVF embryos (referred by the same doctor that referred my family member). The third, thankfully for her, still had money to spend on additional embryos.

    Ah, here we go. I’d like you to provide a citation for your claim that there was no federal funding for stem cell research prior to August 9, 2001. Because I think you’re buying into a seriously large load of crap when you say that.

    OK, here we go: in 1995, President Clinton signed an appropriations bill into law that contained what was known as the Dickey Amendment, which said:

    “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for (1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under 45 CFR blah, blah, blah, United States Code).”

    If you don’t trust Wikipedia, here’s the law itself. The ammendment is on page 280 (out of 465).

    (Side note: this law has been renewed every year since then, and is still in effect today. This NY Times article does a decent job of explaining how, despite Obama’s executive order, these restrictions still apply to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, and how it takes an act of Congress, not the President, to change that. So we’re not out of the woods on this thing yet.)

    In 1998, James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin created hte first embryonic stem cell line (using private funding and, of course, destroying embryos in the process). In response to this discovery, Clinton set his lawyers on finding a way to encourage this research. In 2000, Clinton published a set of NIH guidelines, which said that federal funds could not be used to destroy embryos (because of Dickey), but could be used to do research on stem cells created by privately funded research (even if it destroyed embryos in the process). Based on these guidelines, the NIH began accepting grant proposals in August, 2000.

    In January, 2001, the Bush administration cancelled those NIH guidelines, pending completion of an HHS review. No grants had been accepted, no funding had been allocated, and no programs had begun.

    In August, 2001, Bush revised Clinton’s guidelines to be more limiting (only stem cell lines that were already created at the time) and allocated, for the first time ever, funding to actual programs – $100 million for existing embyronic stem cells and $250 million for research on adult and animal stem cells.

    (Source, Source).

    The politicking here, such as it is, is the people who have called it a “ban” for so long, that everyone (including you) has lost context on what was banned and what was allowed.

    Given the above, to your points above re: impacts of Bush’s plan:

    #1 and #2 are patently false.

    #3 is internally inconsistent. Your quote of Art Caplan says, “it is hardly fair and completely disingenuous for critics to point to the practice and wonder why it lags four decades behind government-funded adult stem cell research” (emphasis mine), and then later claim that adult stem cell research was not just limited, but shut down.

    I’m finding it so blisteringly infuriating that you’re bending over backwards to “give Bush his due” for the “astonishing progess” we’ve had to date. Best we can say is that the decade wasn’t a total loss, and the credit for that is certainly not his due.

    And here’s what I find blisteringly infuriating: in my original post, I called the concept of Bush getting credit for progress on adult stem cell research “mind-bending.” And then later, I said, “I’ll give Bush a little credit here, but quickly and emphatically state that this wasn’t his intent and that it was more luck than design.” A week later, after 5,000 words of discussion and multiple citations from leading scientists, as well as agreement from the current President of the United States, you’ve concluded that I’m “bending over backwards to give Bush his due for astonishing progress.”

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