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Final Rules Broaden Pool for Stem Cell Research
Date:7/6/2009

Older stem cell lines eligible for U.S. research dollars, NIH says

MONDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. government issued final guidelines Monday describing which embryonic stem cell lines will be eligible for government funding, effectively expanding the universe of stem cells that can be used for research.

Going forward, researchers will have to demonstrate that embryonic stem cells used in research were obtained from fertility clinic embryos that otherwise would have been discarded. Also, the stem cells must come with the informed consent of the parents or mother.

But stem cells developed earlier will not require such precise documentation, representing a departure from draft guidelines issued in April by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

According to published reports, earlier stem cell lines must meet the "spirit" of the new guidelines, if not the "letter," to qualify for taxpayer-supported funding.

The crucial test, The New York Times reported, is whether the embryos used to create the older stem cell lines were created for reproductive purposes and whether donors freely consented to their use in research procedures. At a news conference Monday, Dr. Raynard S. Kington, acting director of the NIH, noted that some researchers had used videos instead of written forms in the past and that such a minor difference in protocol would not make that research ineligible for financing, the newspaper said.

The new guidelines still ban federal financing for research on stem cell lines derived from embryos created solely for research.

In March, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that he said would allow federal taxpayer dollars to fund significantly broader research on embryonic stem cells because "medical miracles do not happen simply by accident."

The executive order overturned a long-standing Bush administration policy limiting government fund
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