The election season is upon us, and the general public is bracing itself for long-winded speeches, micromanaged political conventions, attack advertising, and the stem cell debate.

The last item might not be on the traditional political radar screen, but according to the Associated Press, the Democratic National Convention will highlight the issue tomorrow. Ron Reagan, son of President Reagan, will address the delegates and stress the importance of federal support of stem cell research. John Kerry has already announced that, if elected, he will reverse the Bush administration's policy of restricting research funding on stem cells derived from human embryos.

No doubt the executives at Geron (NASDAQ:GERN) will be following the election very closely. The firm is heavily engaged in exploring the potential of embryonic stem cells, which are notable for their ability to differentiate into specialized cells. Because of this property, some scientists have speculated that the cells could treat a range of conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries. Geron's studies in the area are all in the early stages, and for some time, the company has limped along by licensing technology to other companies -- most recently to Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) -- while piling on losses, including $52 million in the first quarter.

Interestingly, government grants have helped Geron pay its bills, although this money does not go toward stem cell research, but rather investigation of the telomerase enzyme and its potential in cancer therapy. Not surprisingly, federal research dollars for stem cell studies are relatively scarce -- the government has invested about $25 million in the field since 2001.

Needless to say, the funding environment could change with the upcoming election, and that would be good for Geron. As a leader in embryonic stem cell research and the holder of a number of related patents, the firm stands a good chance of capturing new grants. Other players, including StemCells (NASDAQ:STEM), could also benefit, which may explain that stock's recent roller-coaster ride, although the firm does not use stem cells derived from embryos.

In the end, studies of embryonic stem cells may or may not yield breakthroughs, so buying Geron's stock now would be a gamble. Nevertheless, the odds that the federal government will make a sizable investment in the field look to be about 50-50, and this alone may be enough to tantalize some.

Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.