The Boston metropolitan area of eastern Massachusetts has perhaps the highest concentration of biomedical and life sciences research institutions in the world. State restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning have been overturned this week with a bill that was overwhelmingly passed in both the Massachusetts Senate and then the House of Representatives. Had the margin of approval been less, Governor Mitt Romney would have been able to veto the bill which he regards and distorts as a "radical cloning bill". Previously, investigators wishing to conduct such research had to obtain permission from their local district attorney. This bill removes that barrier to scientific research while simultaneously maintaining or even strengthening regulations that ban reproductive cloning.

Harvard's President Lawrence Summers writes in this article that this bill gives scientists the tools they need to help make Massachusetts "a global center in the life sciences revolution". Harvard's Stem Cell Institute (more) was formed last year to conduct the ground breaking stem cell research with private funds since the current federal government's anachronistic policies continue to ban funding of research done with new stem cell lines, limiting scientists to continue to use the aged cultures from the 60 existing embryonic stem cell lines. I can tell you from my own experience maintaing neuronal cell cultures, cell lines that have been maintained for long durations and divided over and over become observably aged and are often retired.

Michael Sandel, professor of political philosophy at Harvard, examines the ethical questions that fuel the controversy surrounding stem cell research in this article from the Boston Globe, where he considers the two primary debates to be a "right to life" objection and a "brave new world" objection.

Despite the Governor's challenge to the stem cell bill, he claims to be trying to increase Biotechnology jobs in Massachusetts, and has even fought to add Science to the MCAS test which determines if high school students may graduate or not. Some sources speculate that the Governor's mixed messages and weak position on stem cell research indicate that he may have ambitions for the next presidential race.