A mouse changes the debate

A while back I mused in this space on the need for effective communicators on the subject of embryonic stem cell research. Yesterday that...

A while back I mused in this space on the need for effective communicators on the subject of embryonic stem cell research. Yesterday that need became glaring yet again, as scientists announced they had devised a way to turn skin cells in a mouse into cells that act the same way as embryonic stem cells. With the House of Representatives today approving a bill that would ease restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research, the recent announcement is likely to be used by President Bush and others as an argument to veto the legislation.

Here's where the communicators come in. Scientists need to be clear that this doesn't render embryonic stem cells superfluous. There are plenty of hurdles remaining, and, obviously, a mouse isn't a human. If the science community can effectively articulate the need for more federal funding while continuing this promising research, President Bush and Republicans could find themselves in an uncomfortable political situation. If not, it may give the White House another excuse to deny funding. High stakes indeed.

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