The National Institutes of Health announced approval of embryonic stem cell lines for federally funded research. The Washington Post
reports the decision is "opening the way for millions of taxpayer dollars to be used to conduct research that was put off-limits by President George W. Bush. Launching a dramatic expansion of government support for one of the most promising but most contentious fields of biomedical research, the National Institutes of Health on Wednesday authorized the first 13 lines of cells under the administration's policy and was poised to approve 20 more Friday. ... An additional 76 stem cell lines are awaiting vetting, and researchers have indicated that they plan to submit at least 254 more for approval. ..."
"Bush severely restricted federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research because of moral objections to the destruction of human embryos to obtain the cells. Federally funded scientists were limited to studying 21 existing cell lines that many criticized as flawed and inadequate; had to erect cumbersome bureaucratic procedures to separate government-funded research from privately funded work; and were sometimes prevented from sharing ideas" (Stein, 12/3). The Associated Press/Philadelphia Inquirer
: "President Obama lifted eight years of restrictions on these master cells last spring. But $21 million-and-counting in new projects were on hold until the National Institutes of Health determined which of hundreds of existing stem-cell lines were ethically appropriate to use." The announcement means researchers "can start using the approved lines immediately, projects that include work to one day repair damaged heart tissue and grow new brain cells. Millions more in stem-cell money is due out later this winter, funds from the economic-stimulus package" (Neergaard, 12/3). The New York Times
: "Two of the newly approved 13 lines were derived by Dr. [Ali H.] Brivanlou, [a researcher at Rockefeller University], with private financing. The rest were prepared by Dr. George Daley of Children's Hospital Boston. Dr. Daley said that private financing had been drying up and that he was eager to start research on the now-approved cell lines with the help of his federal grant money" (Wade, 12/2). The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones
: The announcement "follows U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the first-ever human trial of a medical treatment derived from embryonic stem cells
. Geron Corp. (GERN), a California-based biotechnology company, is trying to use a stem-cell treatment for spinal cord injuries. The company's stock was up nearly 10% Wednesday at $5.98 in afternoon trading. ... Collins stressed multiple times during a conference call that the stem cells lines approved were developed following strict NIH guidelines and that donors knew they wouldn't financially gain from donating the cells" (Favole, 12/2). USA Today
: "Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opposes embryonic cell research, called the announcement 'a political event, but the science is all moving in the other direction,' toward 'induced' stem cells, which are grown from skin cells but with the tissue-growing potential of embryonic cells. But Collins said the embryonic stem cells possess unique potential and also will illuminate induced cell line research" (Vergano, 12/2).
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.