NIH Clears First Group of Stem Cell Lines for Federal Research Funds
On Wednesday, NIH authorized the first 13 lines of embryonic stem cells for research under the Obama administration policy that allows the use of such lines after they pass a federal approval process, the Washington Post reports.
According to NIH officials, 20 more lines are expected to be approved on Friday. In addition, another 76 stem cell lines are awaiting federal approval, and researchers have said they plan to submit at least 254 more for review.
The introduction of new embryonic stem cell lines is a dramatic expansion of government support for the contentious field of biomedical research. President George W. Bush in August 2001 restricted federal funding for the research because of objections to the destruction of human embryos in order to acquire the cells. Bush's policy permitted research to be conducted only on the 21 lines already available (Stein, Washington Post, 12/3). Since then, biomedical researchers supported by NIH have had to raise private funds to develop stem cells to study (Wade, New York Times, 12/3).
In the face of the Bush administration's policy on funding for stem cell research, California voters approved Proposition 71 in 2004, permitting the sale of $3 billion in state bonds to fund stem cell research (Leuty, San Francisco Business Times, 12/2).
Obama's Change in Policy
In March, President Obama reversed the policy and allotted funding for lines vetted by federal officials (Fox, Reuters, 12/2). The guidelines used for the approval process were adopted in July (Washington Times, 12/2).
According to the guidelines, scientists still must acquire the lines with private funding. Federal funding can be used to fund research on the new lines.
NIH already has approved 31 grants worth about $21 million for embryonic stem cell research, including work on developing cells that could treat heart and nervous system ailments (Washington Post, 12/3).
The 13 lines approved Wednesday were created by scientists at Children's Hospital Boston and Rockefeller University (Washington Times, 12/2).
According to NIH Director Francis Collins, the authorization of the stem cell lines 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" (Washington Post, 12/3).Don Gibbons -- a spokesperson for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the body that administers state funding for stem cell research -- said CIRM's work "will go further now that NIH can join us as a partner" (San Francisco Business Times, 12/2). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.