Here in the United States, political maneuverings around embryonic stem cell research made headlines throughout June. But this was little more than rehearsed political theatre, reenacting a well-known script. The Democratic-controlled Congress once again passed a bill that would have undone restrictions on the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but the Republican President again vetoed it. Despite last year's electoral shift in Congress, the bill's advocates are still far short of the super-majority needed to override the veto.
Though the debate remains polarized and deadlocked, supporters of President Bush's restrictions - including many Republicans up for reelection next year - are no doubt looking for ways to extricate themselves from their increasingly unpopular position. To date, they've largely gambled on the emergence of alternative sources of stem cells that are just as powerful as those derived from embryos, but that can be produced without destroying embryos.
Until now, this strategy has been largely rhetorical. But it appears that scientific developments - including one that was heralded by several researchers as being as important as the birth of Dolly,...