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Obama ends stem cell funding ban

Published on 10/03/09 at 11:31am

President Obama has lifted the US ban on federal funding for new stem cell research, signalling another marked departure in policy from his predecessor George W Bush.

Obama said that although the full promise of such research is unknown, support and funding should go to scientists in the hope it will help cure devastating conditions.

"Medical miracles do not happen by accident. When a government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed," he said.

Stem cells have the capacity to turn into any other type of human cell, including bone, muscle or nerve cell. One embryo can provide a limitless supply because the cell lines can be grown indefinitely.

But the use of human embryonic stem cells in research controversial, and some religious and political groups have condemned it as unethical.

The previous US administration blocked the use of any government money to fund research on human embryonic stem cell lines that had been created after 9 August 2001.

President Bush and other social conservatives argued that the embryos used are human life and therefore should not be destroyed in science. Bush twice vetoed congressional attempts to have the ban lifted.

The new executive order signed by Obama pledges to "vigorously support" stem cell research. He says it will ensure the US maintains a ranking in innovation and development and encourage scientists to stay in the country, rather than leave to those more willing to sponsor such work.

Obama added that new treatments for Parkinson's disease, cancer, and diabetes are just some of the possible outcomes of reversing the ban.

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