Medical advances come so fast and furious these days, it might be easy to lose perspective as to how transformative these discoveries can be.

Limb and even face transplants are possible, as is tissue regeneration. And joint replacement — well, that has become almost routine.

Against this backdrop, it's understandable to perhaps have overlooked an announcement last week that researchers found no detectable HIV virus levels in two stem-cell transplant patients who had previously tested positive for HIV.

It's too early to use the word "cure," but the implications are breath-taking. At the very least, the findings could be an important stepping stone on the path to a cure for a virus that has led to more than 30 million deaths worldwide.

The life-changing potential of the discovery brings to mind the need for federal lawmakers to pass legislation cementing into law the Obama administration's rules on embryonic stem-cell research. As it stands, these sensible rules could be modified by a successive administration.


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U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., reintroduced such a measure several weeks ago, and we hope it passes. Congress passed similar measures twice before, but they were vetoed by then-President George W. Bush.

To be clear, the type of stem-cell therapy used in the HIV research — a bone marrow transplant — is different from embryonic stem-cell research and doesn't typically spark the kind of controversy that embryonic stem-cell research engenders. And thank goodness.

But the potential for medical breakthroughs from embryonic stem-cell research that could help people suffering from debilitating diseases and conditions — such as Parkinson's Disease and juvenile diabetes — is similarly inspiring.

As research institutions consider investing in the human capital and infrastructure necessary to carry out embryonic stem-cell research, having legislative clarity would make those expenditures more palatable.

DeGette's bill would put into law the National Institutes of Health's reasonable rules on stem-cell research and ethics. For instance, the legislation prohibits using federal funding for human cloning.

We are living through a wondrous age of medical science, one that holds promise for relief of a wide range of illness and injury. It wasn't so long ago, for instance, that polio crippled tens of thousands of people a year in the U.S. and terrified countless more. The polio vaccine, however, eliminated the disease by 1979.

The news that two men being treated in Boston for cancer seem clear of HIV after stopping anti-retroviral therapy is another affirmation of the strength of this nation's medical research institutions and personnel.

Giving researchers more certainty when it comes to embryonic stem-cell research could also enhance the prospects for medical breakthroughs, alleviating suffering and improving the human condition.