Bring on the Research: NIH Approves New Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

By Andrew Moseman | December 3, 2009 10:29 am

test tubes220President Obama followed through yesterday on his plan to ease restrictions on stem cell use in research funded by taxpayer money. National Institutes of Health leader Francis Collins announced that the organization has approved 13 new lines of embryonic stem cells for research, and will consider 96 more lines for approval.

In March, Obama lifted President Bush’s restrictions on federally-funded research on embryonic stem cells, which limited research to a handful of lines created before August 2001. Obama could not on his own reverse the Congressional ruling that forbids scientists from using taxpayer money to create new stem cell lines from embryos, but the ruling allows researchers to use cell lines created by others in an ethical fashion. The NIH set up a panel to decide which stem cell lines met strict ethical restrictions. The cells, for instance, have to have been made using an embryo donated from leftovers at fertility clinics, and parents must have signed detailed consent forms [Reuters].


About $21 million in projects had been on hold, waiting for the NIH’s ruling on “ethical” stem cell lines. And that hasn’t been the only lab headache created by the political divisiveness over stem cells; scientists have gone to great length to keep stem cell-related research away from their federally-funded projects. “You can imagine what it meant not to be able to carry a pipette from one room to another,” said Ali H. Brivanlou, a researcher at Rockefeller University. “They even had to repaint the walls to ensure no contamination by federal funds” [The New York Times].

The reasons to do stem research, of course, are oft-repeated. Embryonic stem cells can morph into any cell of the body, and scientists hope to harness them so they can create replacement tissue to treat, possibly even cure, a variety of diseases, from diabetes to Parkinson’s to spinal cord injury [AP]. And recent research by Shinya Yamanaka that showed the possibility of reverting mature cells back to the embryonic state raised hopes of doing this work while circumventing the contentious moral fights over the destruction of embryos.

Still, scientists say there’s variability between how different lines perform in the lab, so opening a greater selection will enhance research. Obama’s plan to do just that looks like the campaign for broader research will keeping moving forward—even plans to reject it, like the University of Nebraska’s vote last week over whether to restrict itself to lines available under the Bush rules, ended in defeat.

Related Content:
80beats: Obama’s Guidelines for Stem Cell Research Dodge Controversial Bullets
80beats: A Safer Way to Transform Skin Cells Into Stem Cells Brings Medical Trials Closer
80beats: Nanoparticles + Stem Cells = Faster Healing Wounds
80beats: Liposuction Leftovers Are a Stem Cell Bonanza
DISCOVER: Second Act for Stem Cells

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • http://www.catholiclab.net Ian

    Should humanity serve science?

  • A future octagenarian

    If I wanted to have the most effective stem cells stashed away for my future rainy day, should I make a test tube baby with my sister, or my mom?

    Are aborted crack babies stem cells less viable than stem cells from healthy would-be moms? Are stem cells from a twelve year olds abortion more viable than a forty year olds?

    I marvel at the possibilities! Stem cell toothpaste, dandruff shampoo, even lip balm!

  • Arki

    and science moves on. Everyone who want to jump on board is welcomed.

  • Angie

    Ever seen pictures of embryoes in early stages? They are not yet human. They might or might not (they might die instead) develop into human babies later on.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »