WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama plans to reverse a ban on government funding for embryonic stem cell research next week, fulfilling a campaign promise on what has long been a divisive moral issue in the US, media reported Friday.

Obama will sign an executive order to that effect Monday, ending a policy adopted by former president George W. Bush during his first year in office, the Washington Post reported.

Stem cell research has long been a controversial ethical issue in the US, along the lines of abortion rights.

Scientists believe stem cells, which are taken from early embryos and can be converted into any tissue in the body, could lead to cures for a variety of diseases, including Parkinsons. But religious groups believe the destruction of embryos involved in the process is immoral.

Bush had limited the use of government money to research on existing colonies of stem cells, and forbad the use of such money on new colonies.