Today, President Barack Obama lifted the restrictions his predecessor placed on the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. In his announcement, the president acknowledged the limits of such research throughout his speech while, at the same time, forcefully making the case for such research:
"The full promise of stem cell research remains unknown," Mr. Obama said. "Medical miracles do not simply happen on their own. They result from painstaking and costly research - from years of lonely trial and error, much which never bears fruit - and from a government willing to support that work."
This should be recited as the stem cell advocates' support whenever the "pro-life" advocate who opposes stem cell research says we have seen some promise with the successful transformation of some adult stem cells into embryonic stem cells. Yes. Scientists have made some progress working with adult stem cells. And yes, scientists may find more promise dealing with some of the recited diseases that bewitch us altering stem cells than they would while testing embryonic stem cells. Scientists might find the cure to more diseases through adult stem cell research. Then again, they may not.
We don't know when that research potential will be exhausted and we probably wouldn't know for a very long time. We couldn't know, for as the president noted in his announcement, the discovery process involves a lot of trial and error. In some cases, adult-stem cell research might lead to more promising results but circumstances might lead scientists at other research facilities whose focus lies with a different set of genetic diseases to work with embryonic stem cell research.