For all the national angst it generates, hESC research remains a surprisingly small part of stem-cell research. Over the past five years, it has received $530 million in federal funding, only about 3.5 percent of total stem-cell dollars.
Where does the rest of the money go? Half of all private funding and 9 of 10 federal dollars go to stem cells culled from adults, bone marrow, umbilical cords, or animals. So federal funding for hESC research could dry up tomorrow and the field of stem-cell research would continue.
Critics say that's what should happen. "Over 80 cures and treatments have been developed using adult stem cells or [umbilical] cord blood cells, and zero using embryonic cells," says Ron Stoddart, director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, one of the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "Overwhelming advances have been made using adult stem cells. Why spend money to destroy embryos when it's not necessary?"
That's not the full story, supporters counter. "Of course adult stem-cell research is ahead," says Richard Hynes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, who chaired the committee that wrote hESC research guidelines. "Bone marrow stem cells were discovered 50 years ago; hESCs were only discovered in 1998, and they're already [in] clinical trials."
Is US violating a 1996 law?