The changing landscape of stem cell politics

For many researchers, politics and policy are topics reserved for cocktail parties and the comings and goings of governors, congressmen, and presidents have little impact on what happens at the laboratory bench. This of course is not true of stem cell research, which can progress or stall due to legislative positions.

In 2001 President Bush issued the executive order that permits scientists to use National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to study human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines that were already created at that time. However, no restrictions were made on research conducted with private funds. This unusual funding and regulatory environment, found nowhere else in the world, has widely impacted the scientists, institutions, foundations, and corporations engaged in this research.

In this special edition of Stem Cell Lines, you will read about how states have created a patchwork of support for embryonic stem cell research, how US policies have affected global competition and collaboration, how national and international guidelines have been written to establish best practices, how life at the laboratory bench has been affected, and how the next president could impact the funding and regulatory frameworks.

The field of stem cell research is still in its youth and state and federal legislative bodies are still grappling with the challenges it presents. Yet, the science continues to press forward, and researchers and the organizations that support this important work continue to navigate the complex and shifting landscape, because the promise of stem cell biology to help us understand the causes of many diseases and, one day, cure them compels us to do so.