On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order, entitled Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells. This EO reversed the thinking of the former Bush administration and led to advancements in many diseases, such as: diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer's.
On August 23, 2010, District Court Judge Royce Lamberth blocked President Obama's executive stem cell order, by stating that it conflicted with a ban on using federal money to destroy embryos. The following day, the head of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) stated, that while some stem cell research would continue for a while, all new stem cell research would be stopped.
So, what exactly are stem cells? Stem cells are the master cells of the body, from which can be divided into daughter cells. These daughter cells either become more stem cells or they become specialized cells with a specific function, i.e. a brain cell, or a blood cell.
And what is it, exactly, that stem cells can do? Well, the easiest way to think of them is like brand new employees, ready to be trained, who are very easily influenced by those around them. They are young and healthy and they are going to help to motivate the others around them and kick out the bad apples.. kinda. Well, that's one application (mentioned below).
What stem cells may be able to eventually do for us, is threefold. First, they can generate healthy cells to replace diseased cells, or to become transplant tissue (as mentioned above in my employee scenario). Second, by watching the development of stem cells, researchers can better understand the etiology and progression of diseases and conditions, in order to find a cure. Finally, stem cells could be used to test new drugs, prior to human testing.
Although the news of the blocked executive stem cell order stunned virtually everyone at NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, a representative from NIH stated, "Human embryonic stem cell research, done responsibility and ethically, is one of the most exciting opportunities to come along in a long time. And in just the last year, we have made so much progress.... Stem cell research offers true potential for scientific discovery, and hope for families."
The Obama administration will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals to lift the preliminary injunction, issued Monday. Democratic Senator T. Harkin who will be calling for a hearing on August 26, 2010, regarding the matter, stated, "This ruling should be appealed and I fully believe it will be overturned".