NIH guidelines published on July 7 and the new panel "will address which embryonic stem cell lines will be eligible for use in research supported by federal funds," he says. "These stem cell lines are created by taking cells from the inner cell mass of early-stage embryos. The process of extracting the cells from the inner cell mass destroys the embryo, which is, of course, the reason for the ethical debates over these cells since they were first successfully created in 1998."
Botkin emphasizes that under both the Bush and Obama guidelines, "it is not possible to use federal funds for the actual destruction of the embryos to create the stem cell lines. Rather, the guidelines address whether federal funds can be used for research using stem cells that were originally created using non-federal sources of funding."
Existing law and regulation allows private companies to conduct research that creates and uses human embryonic stem cells. But, says Botkin, "given the large amount of research funding provided by the federal government, the new guidelines will permit a significant increase in the number of projects using embryonic stem cells."
Botkin says "it is unclear" how many requests for approval the NIH will receive, although many researchers are eager to move forward with stem cell work.
"Under the previous policy formulated by the Bush administration, research with a limited number of stem cell lines was supported by the NIH," he says. "Only lines that were created before Aug. 9, 2001 (the date of the Bush policy announcement) were eligible for funding because the embryos had been destroyed already and the policy sought not to foster additional destruction of human embryos. How
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah