Almost all of the Republican candidates for the 2012 presidential term would restrict federal funding for human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), which many scientists worry could hinder scientific advances in the field.
In 2001, Bush barred the National Institutes of Health from funding hESC research on all but 22 existing cell lines. In 2009, Obama overturned Bush’s law by executive order, allowing new hESC lines to apply for federal funding eligibility. Currently, there are 128 approved hESC lines for federal funding, and over the last two years, the NIH has provided more than $300 million to support research using those lines.
Of seven Republican candidates, all said they would not support expanding funding for new cell lines, and only John Huntsman and Newt Gingrich responded to a Boston Globe survey saying that they would allow the NIH to continue funding research for currently approved hESC lines. Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts actively supported federal funding for hESC lines, said that overall he would not support using federal dollars for hESC research, but would “make an examination of the science” to determine whether funding could be maintained for the existing 128 cell lines, the Globe reports. The other four candidates avoided answering questions on the currently funded lines.