Exasperated with US restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, one of the leading experts in the field, Douglas Melton, of Harvard University, and his colleagues have created 17 stem cell lines which they plan to give away to other laboratories. Melton says that the 17 lines were created with private funding from 344 IVF embryos which had developed for 3 to 5 days. He has also written a “cookbook” to help other scientists use his stem cells and create more lines.
In recent weeks restrictions imposed by President Bust, which allow federal funding only for stem cell lines approved before 9 August 2001, have become increasingly irritating. American scientists winced when South Koreans announced that they had cloned human embryos and created stem cell lines. “Federally funded scientists have to drive Model T’s, while Korean scientists get to drive around in the newest Porsche,” said Dr George Q. Daley, a Harvard researcher.
Furthermore, many of the 78 eligible stem cell lines are said to be unavailable. The National Institutes of Health says that 16 of them have failed to develop, several have developed genetic abnormalities and others are not being released by overseas laboratories. The figure of 78 appears to have shrunk to 23 — infuriating stem cell scientists and their supporters who still hope that embryonic stem cells will deliver silver bullets for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and other chronic debilitating ailments.
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