Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The Conflict Between New Stem Cell Research and Federal Policy
Via Washington Post (7/29/07)
With the active encouragement of the Bush administration, U.S. scientists in the past year have developed several methods for creating embryonic stem cells without having to destroy human embryos.
But some who now wish to test their alternatively derived cells have found themselves stymied by an unexpected barrier: President Bush's stem cell policy.
The 2001 policy says that federal funds may not be used to study embryonic stem cells created after Aug. 9 of that year. It is based on the assumption that the only way to make the cells is by destroying human embryos -- a truism in 2001 but not any longer.
As a result, the National Institutes of Health recently refused to consider a grant application for what would have been the first federal study to compare several of the new, less politically contentious stem cell lines.
Upcoming changes in the NIH's stem cell funding rules may eventually help resolve that problem. But agency officials and others say the policy tangle is more complicated than that. Although Lanza's technique and other new approaches do not destroy embryos, they may run afoul of a long-standing congressional ban on studies that "harm" human embryos.
At the center of the debate is a new technique, pioneered by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), that obtains stem cells from human embryos while leaving the embryos functionally intact. A single cell, called a blastomere, is removed from an eight-cell human embryo, then coaxed to multiply into a colony of stem cells in a dish.
You can read the full story at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/28/AR2007072800993.html?sub=new