February 24, 2024

New human embryonic stem cell lines to be funded in US

NIH director defends research as ethical

US regulators have approved 13 new lines of human embryonic stem cells which will be eligible for Federal funding for scientific research. They had been created with private money from embryos leftover from IVF treatment. “This is the first down payment on what is going to be a much longer list that will empower the scientific community to explore the potential of embryonic stem cell research,” said National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins.

Another 96 lines could soon be approved if they meet the ethical guidelines unveiled in July by the Obama administration. And researchers say that they want regulators to approve 254 more lines, as well.

This was a long-awaited moment for many stem cell scientists. Under the Bush Administration, all funded human embryonic stem cell research was limited to 21 cell lines. Apart from the fact that some of these lines were said to be flawed, separating funded research from unfunded research was a huge bureaucratic burden for the researchers.

The announcement was decried by groups which contend that human embryos should not be used for research. “Ethically, we don’t think any taxpayer should have to fund research that relies on destroying early human life at any stage,” said Richard M. Doerflinger of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. “But the tragedy of this is multiplied by the fact that no one can think what the problem is that can only be solved by these cells.”

Dr Collins, a geneticist and evangelical Christian, defended the use of embryonic stem cells. “I think that there is an argument to be made that what is being done is ethically acceptable,” Collins said, “even if you believe in the inherent sanctity of the human embryo.” – Washington Post, Dec 3  

Michael Cook
embryonic stem cells
Francis Collins
stem cells