President Barack Obama is expected Monday to announce that he is reversing an eight-year-long ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, a move that opens potential pathways to cures for serious disease as well as further alienates conservatives who consider embryonic stem cell research morally wrong.
His decision will reverse an executive order signed by President George W. Bush in 2001 that restricted federal funding to a small number of stem cell lines already in existence. The change will not allow use of federal funds for creation of new lines, but will permit scientists who work with newer stem cell lines to apply for government money for the research.
The expected announcement is being cheered by those suffering from debilitating and sometimes fatal diseases and disorders, such as muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease. They say they hope the research will culminate in new treatments or even cures.
But the end of the federal funding ban is being met with dismay by some religious leaders and anti-abortion activists, who argue that the process of using embryos for research crosses a moral line because the embryo - a potential human life - is destroyed in the process. Instead, they argue, scientists should focus on using adult stem cells that come from human tissue. Rarer and more limited than embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells hold therapeutic promise but have their own drawbacks.
Despite the ongoing debate, today's announcement means that soon researchers and scientists in universities and laboratories on Long Island and beyond will begin to see an infusion of federal research dollars for efforts to direct the embryonic stem cells to heal that which up to now, could not be healed.