Op-Ed

Four cells with a colorful green and purple background.

President Obama's recent removal of his predecessor's stem cell policy is a welcome development. The Bush administration's restriction on the federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research was outdated and increasingly unpopular. While much of the media coverage of President Obama's announcement has focused on the research's potential and the political winners and losers, here are a few points that were overlooked:

For years, embryonic stem cell research in the US has been conducted in a federal regulatory vacuum, and the debate has been characterized by exaggerated rhetoric about imminent cures. Obama shifted the ground on both fronts. He ordered the National Institutes of Health(NIH) to draw up guidelines, which hopefully will be enforceable and apply to both publicly and privately funded research. The President also clearly called for a prohibition on reproductive cloning, which remains legal in the US and shares materials and methods with embryonic stem cell research. Furthermore, his language was optimistic but cautious; he noted that cures may not come in our lifetimes. This is a big change from advocates' over-the-top promises...