President-elect Barack Obama plans to lift the restrictions on federal money for embryonic stem cell research that President George W. Bush decreed in August of 2001.

Seven years later, the controversial debate now centers on embryonic stem cells versus adult stem cells. Both are building blocks in the body that can evolve into different tissues and organs. Harvesting embryonic stem cells is anathema to some religious groups. They cite recent breakthroughs in adult stem cells., the world’ s largest market research resource, reports that stem cells have the potential to combat Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, depression, hearing loss, Huntington’s disease, lysosomal storage disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, retinal disorders, spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and other brain and nervous system disorders.

In 2006, the promise of potential cures triggered a Missouri constitutional amendment vote named the Stem Cell Initiative. It passed 51 to 49 percent by 50,800 votes out of 2.1 million cast. The lengthy amendment ensured that Missouri patients would have access to stem-cell therapies and cures. It was laden with restrictions such as, “No person may clone or attempt to clone a human being.”

State Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit and an outspoken critic of the initiative, said of Obama’ s campaign pledge, “Science is resolving this issue. Embryonic stem cell has been passed up by adult stem cell research and it has become less cumbersome, less expensive and is ethical. I predict in five to 10 years embryonic stem cells will be a non-issue.”

Sean Tipton, of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, was recently quoted in an Associated Press report, “It’s a little disingenuous for opponents who have effectively blocked federal funding of the work to then cite a lack of progress. You hold someone at the starting line when you criticize them for not getting very far.”

Private research companies, such as the Stowers Medical Institute in Kansas City, left the starting line long ago for they don’t rely on federal funds. Its 450 employees are working to one day translate basic research into treatments and cures. Whenever President Obama signs the stem cell executive order, get ready for a new salvo of controversy.

I give you President John Adam’ s toast: Independence forever.