Nearly half of the members of the U.S. House on Wednesday sent a letter to President Bush asking him to change his policy restricting federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, The Washington Post reports. Bush in 2001 restricted federal funding for stem cell research to stem cell lines previously created but banned funding for newly developed lines. The bipartisan group of 206 representatives wrote that stem cell research could lead to treatments or cures for diseases that affect more than 100 million Americans, including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.
"Scientists have told us that since this policy went into effect more than two years ago, we have learned much more about why the embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding will not be suitable to effectively promote this research," the letter says. Although there were 78 reported stem cell lines available for federally funded research when Bush issued the funding policy, fewer than 20 are actually viable and available for federally backed research, scientists say. The lawmakers write that research could be conducted using the more than 400,000 human embryos that have been created for in vitro fertilization but remain unused--and will eventually have to be destroyed regardless of whether they are used in research.
Bush opposes using embryonic stem cells for research because he believes it is immoral to destroy human embryos. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Michael Castle (R-Del.) say they will likely introduce a bill that would loosen the funding restrictions if Bush doesn't work with the lawmakers to change the funding policy. White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush currently has no plans to loosen the restrictions.