April 13, 2024

US stem cell scientists bemoan lost opportunities

As other countries develop embryonic stem lines, US stem cell researchers are being forced to sit on the sidelines, lamenting the loss of their competitive edge, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Most of the world’s new stem cell lines are being created in countries like the Czech Republic, Australia, South Korea, Sweden, Israel and Finland. Earlier this month the first public bank for embryonic stem cells opened in the UK, headed by American expatriate Stephen Minger.

Envious US scientists are chafing under restrictions imposed by President George W. Bush in 2001. These have meant that no new lines can be created with funding from the federal government — which most scientists feel is essential for progress. Only about 20 lines exist, they complain, and these are poor and contaminated by contact with mouse feeder cells. But by the end of the year there could be 100 lines in other countries — most of which will be off-limits for federally-funded research in the US. This slows the pace of research and could mean lost business opportunities.

However, the brain drain of talented stem cell scientists overseas which critics gloomily predicted has not materialised. The Globe attributes this to the existence of privately-funded research.