Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Exciting Day for Science in America

Guest blogger Matt Hanzlik at the inauguration in January.

Monday was an exciting day for science in America. As you know, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order removing the restrictions on federally-funded embryonic stem cell research imposed by President Bush in 2001. But Monday was more than an exciting day—it marked the beginning of a completely new era for science, research, and the possibility of cures for some of society’s most devastating diseases and conditions. I write today as a member of Research!America’s New Voices for Research initiative and as a patient advocate.

My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2005 when I was a senior in high school. As a son, student, member of the Parkinson’s disease community, and member of New Voices for Research, I whole-heartedly thank President Obama for ending the intense ideological influence that has blocked promising science for the past eight years. For patients and families like mine, suffering from debilitating diseases and conditions, time is of the essence. Not only did President Bush’s blockade of stem cell research cause permanent damage to America’s global scientific competitiveness—it stole precious time from those who needed it most. But that was then, and this is now.

By signing the Executive Order, President Obama ended the legitimate frustration of scientists, researchers, medical professionals, patients and their families who courageously seek advancements towards cures. In place of frustration and anguish, scientists, patients and their families can now take comfort knowing that the President of the United States is once again on their side. President Obama’s Executive Order will allow stem cell scientists and researchers the backing of the federal government in their search for cures to debilitating diseases and conditions. We can all have hope for a healthier, brighter tomorrow.

As embryonic stem cell research (eSCR) moves forward with the support of the federal government, resistance and misinformation from groups opposed to eSCR is sure to intensify. Now more than ever, it is our duty as scientists, researchers, medical professionals, and patient advocates to spread the truth about eSCR. We don’t know where potential cures may lie, and for this reason it is important to explore every avenue of stem cell research—cord blood, adult stem cells, somatic cell nuclear transfer, induced pluripotent stem cells, and embryonic stem cells. Don’t ever let someone tell you that adult stem cell research has already cured Parkinson’s disease, for example. I know dozens of people who are still stiff and shaking from Parkinson’s. They are looking to all forms of stem cell research for a potential cure.

Please take a moment this week to join me in thanking President Obama for removing the restrictions on federally-funded embryonic stem cell research and offering hope to so many Americans. You can send the President a thank you note through I look forward to the journey towards cures we are about to embark on together.

--Matt Hanzlik is a junior at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. He serves as the National Advocacy & Government Relations Chair for the Student Society for Stem Cell Research (

Additional resource: SSSCR’s statement on the Executive Order

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