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What is a stem cell? What could studying these cells tell us about the mechanisms of normal development? How could stem cells be used to treat disease? What is controversial about embryonic stem cell research and why? These are some of the questions addressed by the video and supplemental materials. A basic understanding of cell biology and genetics will help you gain a full appreciation of stem cell research. Links to introductory texts on these topics are provided for reference.
Why This Science Matters
On August 9, 2001, President George W. Bush prohibited the use of federal funds for research on embryonic stem cell lines created after that date. On November 2, 2004 voters in California passed proposition 71, the "Stem Cell Research and Cures Act," which provides $3 billion over 10 years for embryonic stem cell research and makes it a constitutional right to conduct stem cell research in California.
These laws reflect very different beliefs about the ethical implications of conducting research on embryonic stem cells. Discussions of legislation on embryonic stem cell research by those on both sides of the issue often ignore or distort the science itself. An understanding of what stem cells are, how they are obtained and what challenges must be overcome for stem cells to live up to the promise of treating any of a long list of diseases: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's), diabetes and cancer are essential for anyone to make sound decisions on policy issues.