Every time I debate stem cell research with a friend who manages Republican political campaigns, he points out that stem cell research isn't illegal; it just doesn't receive federal funding--there's nothing stopping private research. That's a spun half truth. According to tonight's 60 Minutes report, "scientists are only permitted to work with new embryonic stem cell lines if their lab does not receive any federal money." What lab doesn't depend on some degree of federal funding? This means private donors must build new labs from the ground up before they can even think about research (on embryos that are less than 5 years old):
In the meantime, Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, head of stem cell research at the University of California at San Francisco, is raising $5 million in private money to build a brand new laboratory that duplicates facilities the university already has. It’s necessary because scientists are only permitted to work with new embryonic stem cell lines if their lab does not receive any federal money. Even if he already has things like microscopes, Petri dishes and refrigerators, he has to buy the same equipment again for the stem cell research. "Absolutely. All the materials and supplies, all the consumable materials, everything that's involved in any of this work needs to be paid for through private funds," Kriegstein explains. Kriegstein says that is one of the problems researchers face. "It's very costly and it's time-consuming, and it has been slowing down progress in the field," he says.