Stanford University is marking the occasion with reflections from its cadre of stem cell whizzes, including Irving Weissman, Philip Pizzo, Stefan Heller and David Magnus.
Here are some excerpts.
On the question of what would have been different if the president had remained silent:
"David Magnus, PhD, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics: We would have had national standards and guidelines much sooner, and we would not have been distracted by debates over the status of embryos and embryo-like constructs. We would have had to work much faster to figure out how to handle informed consent and other practical ethical challenges."
On the most significant thing learned in the past five years:
"Stefan Heller, PhD, associate professor of otolaryngology, who is investigating the use of stem cells to repair hearing damage: The past five years were key in redefining possible new approaches to find a cure for hearing loss, and stem cells played a big role in this process. We experienced the advent of stem cell-based regenerative approaches for the inner ear."
"Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine and a member of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee for the state's stem cell institute: One of the important transitions in the past five years has been the increasing proportion of Americans who have become supportive of embryonic stem cell research. Their voice reflects a gap between the Bush administration's tenacious fixation on religious ideology and America's common-sense perspective about the value of medical research in improving the lives of adults and children. This is coupled with an increasing number of American citizens who have stepped forward to support embryonic stem cell research through philanthropy along with a rising choir of bipartisan support from the Congress. In addition, a number of states have demonstrated their support for stem cell research through either state-funded research programs or legislative activities."The most important thing to learn in the next five years:
Irving Weissman, director of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. "We will continue pushing forward on four stem cell fronts: 1) Learning how to regenerate diseased tissues using adult tissue stem cells; 2) Finding new and useful embryonic stem cell lines and the tissue stem cells they make, such as the heart and lung; 3) Finding safe, ethical ways of making stem cell lines from patients with genetic diseases that help us understand and treat those diseases; 4) Finding new therapies based on our cancer stem cell research and using our discoveries to treat Stanford cancer patients."