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More bad news for US stem cell researchers

3 March 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 248

Following last week's news that US President George W Bush has 'reshuffled' the council that advises him on cloning and other issues in biomedical research, more bad news has emerged for embryonic stem cell (ES) cell) research in the US. A new document compiled by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that only a small number of the ES cell lines originally thought to be eligible for use by US researchers are actually available.

On 9 August 2001, President Bush announced that ES cell research supported by federal funds could only take place on stem cell lines that were already in existence on that date. Research that would cause the destruction of any further embryos for research would not be permitted. The NIH identified 78 existing ES cell lines in the world at the time. Since then, US researchers have complained that the ES cell lines available for them are not as good as later-produced lines, which were created using newer techniques, in particular without the use of mouse 'feeder' cells. Now, congressional critics have criticised Bush because 'only a fraction' of the 78 lines identified by the NIH are actually available, pointing to the fact that the new NIH document estimates that in the 'best case scenario', only 23 cell lines can be used.

In response to the NIH findings, Democrats Henry Waxman and Louise Slaughter wrote to the president, saying that 'it now appears that the administration may have misinformed the public...on an issue of great public health significance' and adding that the new research 'casts into doubt the adequacy of your policy on stem cell research'. In addition, a bi-partisan group of members of the House of Representatives are thought to be gathering signatures on a petition calling for a change in policy. Elias Zerhouni, director of the NIH, said that 15 ES cell lines are currently available for use by US federally-funded researchers and a further eight would be soon. He added that it cannot yet be calculated exactly how many of the 78 lines in existence by 9 August 2001 will eventually prove to be useable. 'It's not fair to say they will never be available, and it's not fair to say they will all be, because we don't know that', he said. But the NIH document says that at least 16 of the original 78 lines approved by President Bush have either died or failed to continue reproducing in the laboratory. Over 30 of them are the property of foreign institutions and, according to the document, are not likely to be available for 'widespread distribution at any time in the foreseeable future'. Some of the other ES cell lines are believed to be exhibiting genetic abnormalities, further undermining their potential usefulness to medical researchers.

In response to the latest criticisms and the findings of the NIH, a spokesperson for the White House said that 'the president remains committed to exploring the promise of stem cell research but continues to firmly believe that we should not cross a fundamental moral line by funding or encouraging the destruction of human embryos'.

Bush admin. criticized on stem cells
LA Times |  2 March 2004
Fewer embryonic stem cell lines than expected available for federally funded research, NIH analysis says
Kaiser Network |  3 March 2004
NIH: Few stem cell colonies likely available for research
The Washington Post |  3 March 2004
7 February 2005 - by BioNews 
In his State of the Union speech last week, US President George Bush expressed his support for the advancement of science, but made a pledge to support a 'culture of life', calling for a ban on the creation of embryos for research purposes. 'To build a culture of life, we...
24 January 2005 - by BioNews 
A new study has brought more bad news for federally-funded US stem cell researchers. Dr Arjit Varki and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, say that all the human embryonic stem (ES) cell lines currently approved for use by state researchers...
10 May 2004 - by BioNews 
President Bush is facing mounting pressure to review his three-year old policy on human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. At a gala dinner held on Saturday night for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Nancy Reagan, wife of the former US President Ronald Reagan, made a passionate speech imploring the...
29 April 2004 - by BioNews 
A letter signed by 206 cross-party members of the US House of Representatives has been sent to President Bush, asking him to change his policy on embryonic stem (ES) cell research. On 9 August 2001, the President issued an executive order limiting the availability of federal funds for ES cell...
24 March 2004 - by BioNews 
A Swedish research team has been granted 240,000 dollars by the US Department of Defense to undertake embryonic stem (ES) cell research for Parkinson's disease. The money has been pledged to Lund University in Sweden by the Pentagon despite limits currently in place in the US on this type of...
1 March 2004 - by BioNews 
President George W Bush has 're-shuffled' the council that advises him on cloning and other issues in biomedical research. At the end of last week, two members were dismissed from the US President's Council on Bioethics and replaced by three new members. Elizabeth Blackburn, from the University of California at...
8 December 2003 - by BioNews 
Stem cell researchers in the US have reacted to comments made last week's by Elias Zerhouni, director of the US National Institutes of Health. They question his assertion that the available stem cell lines are sufficient to meet research needs. Zerhouni stated that the restrictions placed on federally-funded embryonic stem...
12 May 2003 - by BioNews 
Elias Zerhouni, director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has confirmed in last week's edition of the journal Science that only 11 human embryonic stem (ES) cell lines are available for use by US researchers. This is significantly fewer than the number originally stated by the NIH. On...
12 August 2002 - by BioNews 
Scientists in the United States have bemoaned the lack of embryonic stem (ES) cells available to American researchers. A year on from President Bush's announcement that only embryonic stem cell lines in existence before 9 August 2001 can be used in US labs, just 16 cell lines are available for...
13 August 2001 - by BioNews 
After much anticipation, President George W Bush has made public his decision on the federal funding of embryo stem cell research. Talking from his home in Texas, Bush said that he would not allow federal funds for deriving stem cells from embryos or for using embryo stem cells newly derived...
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