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Bush pledges 'culture of life' on ES cell research

7 February 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 294

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 must also ensure that scientific advances always serve human dignity, not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of others', he said. Bush said that he wants to work with Congress 'to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts'. While he did not directly refer to embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research, an unnamed White House official has said that Mr Bush has no intention of relaxing his policy on ES cells and actually intends to seek 'stricter limits' on all embryo research.

On 9 August, 2001, President Bush put in place a policy that allows federally-funded researchers to work only on ES cell lines that were already in existence by that date. The policy allows them to work on cell lines already derived from embryos, but does not condone the destruction of further embryos. At the time the policy was announced, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) claimed that there were 78 ES cell lines worldwide that could be used. Later evidence shows that the number actually available is closer to 20.

Federally-funded researchers have complained about the lack of ES cell lines available to them, as well as saying that the ones that are available are not good for research as they have been contaminated with mouse 'feeder' cells. ES cell lines created since Bush's policy was put in place have not used mouse cells, and so are potentially better in terms of future research on humans and clinical trials. Two weeks ago, a study by Dr Arjit Varki and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, showed that all the ES cell lines currently approved for use by state researchers in the US are indeed 'contaminated' with animal substances.

Some members of Congress support ES cell research and say that they have a majority in both houses that would enable them to pass legislation allowing ES cell research to take place on embryos 'left over' from fertility treatments. Such embryos, which are estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands across America, would otherwise be discarded. However, the White House official said that Bush's policy was not going to loosen, and that Bush intends to put forward a 'detailed, broader bioethics agenda', in the 'near future'. This would look for limits on human embryo research being conducted by 'rogue scientists'.

Bush Signals Tougher Embryo Research Limits
Reuters |  3 February 2005
President Bush Will Pursue Stricter Limits On Human Embryo Research |  3 February 2005
11 April 2005 - by BioNews 
Several directors of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) publicly announced last week that they do not support President Bush's policy on human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. In a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labour, Health and Human Services and Education, they broke away from 'a...
29 March 2005 - by BioNews 
The US House of Representatives leadership has agreed to allow a floor vote on a bill that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem (ES) research. The bill would amend the Public Health Service Act, making human ES cells eligible for use in research conducted or supported by government...
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A new bill, designed to expand funding for embryonic stem (ES) cell research, has been introduced to both chambers of the US federal legislature. Last Wednesday, bill HR810, also known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, was put forward by a bipartisan group of members of the...
7 February 2005 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
As we report in BioNews this week, President George Bush has pledged support for a 'culture of life' in American science. In his view, this means pursuing his policy on embryonic stem (ES) cell funding, and refusing to allow federal funds for researchers working to create ES cell lines. It...
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...
1 November 2004 - by BioNews 
In the final run-up to the US presidential election on 2 November, both candidates have been heavily campaigning, including on the issue of embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry promises to abandon the restrictions placed on ES cell research by Bush in 2001. Bush's policy limits...
4 October 2004 - by BioNews 
A team of high-profile scientists, including 10 Nobel prize winners and two former presidential advisers, has set up a new group to put pressure on President Bush about his science policies. The group, called Scientists and Engineers for Change (SEC), is touring ten 'campaign battleground states', accusing the president of...
3 March 2004 - by BioNews 
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 (ES) cell research in the US. A new document compiled by the US National Institutes of Health...
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...
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