U.S. President Barack Obama has signed an executive order lifting his
predecessor's restrictions on the use of federal funding for medical
research using human embryonic stem cells.
At the White House Monday, Mr. Obama said scientists believe the cells may have the potential to help the scientific community understand and possibly cure some of the most devastating diseases and conditions.
Unlike adult cells, which have specific functions, stem cells from very early embryos have the ability to grow into any tissue in the body. Scientists say embryonic stem cells hold the promise of cures and treatments for diseases and conditions ranging from diabetes to paralysis.
In August 2001, then-President George W. Bush banned the use of taxpayer money for research using new lines of human embryonic stem cells. Critics say using human embryos for research is immoral and amounts to the destruction of human life.
Mr. Obama acknowledged the research is controversial but said that after much discussion, debate and reflection, the proper course of action has become clear. He said the majority of Americans support stem cell research.
Mr. Obama said there will be strict guidelines that will be rigorously enforced. He called on Congress to act on a bipartisan basis to provide further support for stem cell research.
He said the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown.
The president also signed a presidential memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring what he called scientific integrity to government decision-making.
He said public policies will be based on the soundest science, and scientific advisors will be appointed on their credentials and experience -- not their politics or ideology.