President Barack Obama has issued Executive Order (EO) 13505, reversing the previous administration's prohibition on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Stem cells are primordial "master cells" derived from days-old embryos that are capable of evolving into many kinds of tissues. Scientists believe they can direct the cells into providing replacement cells and cure a variety of ailments, from juvenile diabetes to Parkinson's disease, as well as some cancers. Opponents, however, argue that because stem cell research involves the destruction of embryos, the research is immoral and the federal government should not in any way facilitate this type of research. Opponents argue that research involving adult stem cells holds more potential for therapies than those involving embryonic stem cells. Some opponents have vo wed to lobby Congress to preserve some restrictions.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) must decide in the next 120 days which types of studies will be funded. NIH will consider issues such as whether to fund studies involving embryos made for the sole purpose of research, those by created by cloning or only the extra embryos donated by patients of in-vitro fertilization clinics.

Funding will begin by July, when the administration will issue guidelines for federally funded projects involving stem cell research. The guidelines will be open for public comment prior to issuance. For more information, please click here.