Glenn Cohen, and his co-authors Jeremy Feigenbaum and Eli Adashi, have a new piece out in JAMA today, Sherley v. Sebelius and the Future of Stem Cell Research. Here’s a brief excerpt:
While enactment of “personhood” bills would constitute the most significant threat to hESC research, the outcome of the 2012 presidential election will also play a large role in where the science goes. Should President Obama be reelected, the status quo will in all likelihood be maintained. Much less is known as to policies that might be pursued by a potential Romney Administration. Still, former Governor Romney is on record opposing the proposition of creating a human embryo through “cloning” or “farming” for the sole purpose of research, ie, “when the sole purpose of its creation is its sure destruction.” Romney is also on record in support of a constitutional amendment that establishes life as beginning at conception. All told, these positions, seconded by Congressman Paul D. Ryan (R, Wisconsin), the Republican vice presidential candidate, and echoed by the Republican Party platform, could substantially alter the prospects of hESC research.
Apart from the aforementioned considerations, the future success of stem cell research cannot be ensured absent the following provisions. First, the derivation of hESC cell lines, especially disease-specific lineages, must proceed apace. Such in vitro models permit a detailed interrogation of the molecular pathology of recalcitrant maladies, allow for the identification of druggable targets, and enable the testing of candidate therapies. Policies intent on limiting publicly funded hESC research to existing cell lines—as advocated by former President George W. Bush—run the risk of curbing progress while shifting the onus of underwriting to the private sector. Second, hESC lines, the current gold (if ideologically contentious) standard, cannot as yet be replaced by the (ideologically more neutral) human-induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) lines of adult origin. Indeed, the molecular signatures and the safety profile of current hiPSC lines are sufficiently distinct from those of hESC provenance so as to qualify their imminent application in the clinical arena. Policies designed to favor hiPSC research—as espoused by Romney—may prove premature and unduly proscriptive.
Take a look at the whole Perspectives piece here.