Ask a doctor: Stem cell research
Now that President Obama has lifted restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, what does this mean for researchers and patients?
Lawrence S.B. Goldstein, Ph.D.: "Research scientists like myself are now busy writing grant applications, hoping we can get federal funding for our work. My research involves converting embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed cells into brain cells in order to study and develop therapies for diseases.
"Most of my work is on Alzheimer's disease and a rare genetic disorder called Niemann-Pick Type C disease, a fatal condition similar to Alzheimer's that causes dementia in children. We also do some work with Lou Gehrig's disease and leukemia.
"Prior to this change, federal funding was only available for work on 21 embryonic stem cell lines in existence before August 2001. Those cell lines were good, but the ones generated since then, in many cases, are better. They're often easier to grow, which speeds up our research.
"Federal money will soon be available for work on additional cell lines. But it's going to take a while, perhaps years, before we develop therapies for patients. There are the occasional success stories in human disease, where a discovery quickly leads to a cure. Antibiotics are an example.
"But a lot of time, we work for years trying to crack what seems like a simple problem. The better funded, the more rapidly therapies will be developed. It takes years of clinical trials to go from a good idea to proving it works and making it available. But if you don't start, the delay is infinite."