Bush vetoes stem cell bill, to scientists' dismay
By Roxanne Khamsi (Image: AP Photo/Ron Edmonds) President George W Bush has kept his promise to veto a bill supporting stem cell research, much to the dismay of scientists across the country and prominent members of his own Republican party. The bill, which would have loosened restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research, had just received approval from the Senate by a vote of 63 to 37 (see Senate passes stem cell Act, but Bush may veto it) on Tuesday. Following Bush’s announcement of a veto, the issue went back to the US House of Representatives. But with 235 to 193 votes in favour of overturning the veto, the House’s vote still fell short of the two-thirds majority needed. US scientists have argued that the lack of federal funding for studies on new types of stem cells has hindered the development of potentially life-saving therapies. Stem cell research is considered by experts as promising for the treatment of illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. The bill, which received initial approval from the House of Representatives in 2005, would have permitted federal researchers to harvest embryonic stem cells from surplus embryos created during in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. “The veto is illogical, since the additional embryos generated from IVF treatment would be destroyed regardless,” says Azim Surani at the Gordon Institute in Cambridge, UK. “This destruction is morally indefensible if they can be used to give hope to people with debilitating diseases.” Rules introduced by Bush in 2001 limited federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research to just 22 cell lines isolated before early August of that year, many of which have been tainted by mouse material (see US stem cells tainted by mouse material). US researchers working on newer stem cell lines must secure private funding to do so. “The stated reason for President Bush’s objection to embryonic stem cell research is that ‘murder is wrong’,” explains Graeme Laurie at the University of Edinburgh, UK. “Why then, does he not intervene to regulate or ban stem cell research carried out with private funds and which is happening across the United States?