More politics for those of you who like to keep an eye on such things; the current state-level battles in the US are likely to set the script for coming attempts to criminalize medical research by federal legislators. It's a strange world we live in, one in which groups of people fight so hard to prevent cures for age-related conditions from being realized.
The debate over embryonic stem cell research in Massachusetts has been getting a fair amount of press in past days. A summary of the pertinent points can be found at Newsweek:
From an academic standpoint, Massachusetts may have the most to lose if stem-cell research is outlawed or discouraged. "At this moment," says Boston-based state Sen. Cynthia Creem, "there are more scientists doing groundbreaking biological and medical research within 10 miles of my desk than in any other city in the world."
The governor, whose wife suffers from multiple sclerosis, a potential target of stem-cell research, had met with a prominent Harvard scientist and backed Creem's original bill. But Romney, a Republican rumored to have national political ambitions, stunned stem-cell supporters with a carefully crafted statement. Yes, he would support some forms of the research. But nuclear transfer performed on embryos created solely for research purposes - the most controversial and one of the most promising techniques - was out of the question.
Bioethicist Arthur Caplan dismantles the Govenor's position in his latest column:
In a state with an economy intimately linked to research in the life sciences, a pronouncement from the governor that the kind of stem cell research being aggressively pursued at world-class universities in California, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Israel, China, India and Korea ought not be done in the Commonwealth is going to receive a very cool reception in many quarters.
Being libertarian, I'm not in favor of state funding for anything; I am in favor of various layers of government getting out of the way - the real damage done so far to progress in stem cell research in the US has resulted from the threat of criminalization. This has scared away the vast pool of potential private funding and greatly slowed progress by those companies and new ventures best placed to move ahead with the commercialization of new research. Even now, federal anti-research legislation in the US is still a possibility - all the more reason to speak up in defense of curing age-related conditions through research into therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research.