Will stem-cell research emerge under Obama administration?


The other night, an NPR program hosted two stem-cell researchers, one from the University of Pennsylvania and the other from Harvard. The two were discussing the prospects for such research under the Obama administration. 

The scientists, along with the narrator, seemed very optimistic that President Obama may lift existing Bush administration restrictions on stem cell research. During the campaign, the president had vowed to remove the restrictions if elected, and since he's been methodically making other high-profile policy changes, this too could very well follow. Soon, perhaps within the next five years, advances such as the ability to replace damaged heart muscle could follow, they said.

If President Obama does indeed do so, brace yourself for a tidal wave. A large number of biomedical researchers are chafing at the bit to expand stem cell research projects, which seem to have wide commercial and clinical applications. If the researchers are given a wider scope in which to operate--including the ability to apply for federal funding of their projects--they are likely to do so in large numbers.

I'd wager that biomedical research houses will invest considerable funds in stem cell projects as well, as a flow of federal money into a field fuels growth in intellectual capital that often gets transferred to industry.

If you're a provider reading this, I concede that even a complete reversal of old policies by President Obama won't change your life immediately. However, it's worth noting that this area of inquiry may soon become an active pursuit again, one that could conceivably change medicine over the next decade. Brace yourself for new options and new challenges. - Anne

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