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Human embryonic stem cell lines may now be submitted for US federal funding approval

28 September 2009
Appeared in BioNews 527

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a website through which scientists can request their human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines to be approved for federally funded research. Eligible lines will appear on the NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry, also accessible online. Dr Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, has appointed a working group to assist him in deciding which lines will be approved.

This is a major step in President Obama's initiative to lift the ban - created by the Bush administration - on the federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, as announced in March. The NIH published guidelines for the eligibility of human ES cell lines in July, forbidding the use of embryos specifically created for research purposes, thus restricting research to surplus embryos from IVF treatments. Full and informed consent from the donor is also required.

Criticism from the scientific community on earlier drafts of the guidelines led to leniency for ES cell lines created before 7 July 2009, as otherwise many of the 700-plus privately funded ES cell lines created previously may not have been eligible. The current guidelines require only that 'core ethical principles and procedures' in obtaining consent for previously created cell lines adhere to the guidelines, but the details of the consent procedures may vary. For ES cell lines created after this date to be approved, the donor must give consent on two separate consent forms specified by the NIH.

The working group appointed by Dr Collins to apply the guidelines to the ES cell lines submitted on the website consists of experts in genetics, law, medicine and ethics. It is chaired by Dr Jeffrey Botkin, a medical ethicist at the University of Utah. This working group reports to the Advisory Committee to the Director of the NIH. Aided by the recommendation of his Advisory Committee, the Director makes the final decision as to the eligibility of submitted ES cell lines.

Approved ES cell lines will appear on the NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry, where scientists can check which cell lines can be used in US federally funded research.

31 August 2010 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
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4 May 2010 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
US-based scientists working on embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research are relieved that the most important cell lines in their field have been approved for research by new government guidelines. During the Bush administration, US government funding for research involving ES cells was restricted to just 20 cell lines, all of which were in existence before 9 August 2001...
9 July 2009 - by Ben Jones 
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published new rules that will govern state funded embryonic stem (ES) cell research now that the seven years of restriction under the Bush administration have come to an end. The new rules restrict research to stem cells sourced from surplus embryos donated by IVF patients and, consequently, forbid research on any embryo that was created specifically for the purposes of research (either through voluntary donation of human eggs or by employing...
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27 April 2009 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The Obama administration has announced its proposals to fund embryonic stem (ES) cell research but it has indicated that federal funding will be restricted to research on cell lines derived from 'surplus' embryos donated following IVF procedures. Mr Obama reversed former President Bush's restriction on federal funding...
9 March 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
US President Barack Obama has announced plans to lift the ban on the federal funding of embryonic stem (ES) cell research, put in place by his predecessor George W Bush more than eight years ago. Obama is expected to sign an executive order legalising the use of...
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