NIH Affirms Potential of Embryonic and Adult Stem Cell Research
The NIH has issued a new report, titled "Stem Cells: Scientific Progress and Future Research Directions," stating that while research on stem cells derived from both human embryos and adult tissue offers "a dazzling array" of treatments for several diseases, the embryonic cells are "clearly superior" for some purposes, the New York Times reports. The confidential study was requested by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson as the Bush administration continues its review of NIH guidelines allowing for federal funding of stem cell research (Pear, New York Times, 6/27).
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The new report "emphasiz[es] the limitless potential" of embryonic stem cells, but also recommends that the government support adult stem cell research, as adult cells "are capable of developing into more kinds of cells than previously imagined." The report says, "All avenues of research should be exhaustively investigated, including both adult and embryonic sources of tissue." However, the report adds, "Adult stem cells are rare. One of the advantages of using embryonic stem cells as compared with adult stem cells is that the embryonic cells have an unlimited ability to proliferate" in the laboratory. Such proliferation "may give them an advantage over adult stem cells by providing large numbers of replacement cells in tissue culture for transplantation purposes." The report does not discuss the ethical, legal or social implications of stem cell research (New York Times, 6/27).