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University of Wisconsin to host US embryo stem cell bank

7 October 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 329

A Wisconsin University-based research group, WiCell, is set to host the first federally-funded US bank of human embryonic stem cells (ES cells). The National Stem Cell Bank will house many of the ES cell lines approved for use in research paid for by the government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said. The NIH also announced funding for two ES cell research centres based at the University of California and Northwestern University in Chicago.

Bush announced on 9 August 2001 that no federal funds would be available for researchers working on human ES cells created after that date. Scientists have since complained that this policy restricts their research and leaves only less effective ES cell lines for them to work with. Also, only 22 cell lines are available for use, rather than the 78 claimed at the time the policy was put in place.  

A bill to expand the federal funding provisions, sponsored by Michael Castle and Dianne DeGette, with more than 200 co-sponsors, recently came before Congress. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act had passed through the US House of Representatives, but then stalled in the Senate. The bill would allow funding for scientists to conduct ES cell research on embryos left over from fertility treatments and donated for research purposes. However, Bush has vowed to veto the bill, should it ever be passed.

The new ES cell bank will receive $16.1 million over four years, with a further $9.6 million earmarked for the research centres. The bank will store, grow and test approved ES cell lines, and scientists will be charged $500 to obtain one cell line. WiCell already had five of the lines, and has recently received another six from the Singapore-based firm ES Cell International. The other 11 cell lines are currently held by labs in California, Georgia, Sweden, Korea and Israel. WiCell are now trying obtain these lines, but scientist Derek Hei, head of the bank said: 'We can't force anybody to submit their lines'.

Dianne DeGette claimed that establishing the new ES cell research centres was not enough. 'The reality is that the best way to jump start embryonic stem cell to expand the federal policy so scientists have access to the most technologically advanced, cleanest, genetically diverse and disease specific lines possible', she said.

Stem-cell bank to open here |  4 October 2005
US sets up national stem-cell bank
Reuters |  3 October 2005
Wis-based group to run stem cell bank
Yahoo Daily News |  4 October 2005
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