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Stem cell policy proposal good news for US research

1 March 2010
Appeared in BioNews 547

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has proposed a broader definition of 'human embryonic stem cell' (hES cell), which would allow Federal funding of research using cells at an early development stage.

The NIH previously only allowed projects using hES cells generated from the blastocyst, an embryonic stage reached five days after fertilisation, to receive Federal funding. This excluded research using stem cells derived from younger embryos – called blastomeres – with only eight cells.

Massachusetts-based company Advanced Cell Technology is among the companies hoping to benefit from the new guidelines. The company filed a request with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year to test a treatment for Macular Degeneration - a degenerative eye disease - that uses blastomeres.

'It would have been a disaster to exclude these valuable human embryonic stem cell lines from consideration for federal funding, especially since the leftover embryos used to generate them meet all the NIH requirements', Dr Robert Lanza, the company's Chief Scientific Officer, told Reuters by e-mail.

Dr Lana Skirboll, director of the Office of Science Policy of the NIH, reportedly said: 'We are making what I think is a relatively small technical change to the definition of human embryonic stem cells…This changes none of the ethical requirements in the guidelines'.

Human embryonic stem cells (hES cells) are pluripotent cells, meaning they harvest the ability to differentiate into any type of cell; cardiac, neuronal or even immunological. This makes them interesting to scientists as they believe they could be key to treating diseases like stroke and heart disease.

When President Barack Obama took office, he removed some restrictions on the use of these cells. But the NIH still imposes strict ethical requirements and a review process on researchers seeking funding, according to Reuters. 

Expansion of US-Paid Research on Stem Cells Proposed by NIH
TopNews US |  20 February 2010
NIH seeks to expand the definition of 'human embryonic stem cell'
Los Angeles Times |  19 February 2010
Official definition of human embryonic stem cells widened in US
PHG Foundation |  24 February 2010
U.S. 'tweaks' stem cell policy
Reuters |  19 February 2010
11 July 2011 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
New legislation to permit federal funds to be used for research on embryos, which would otherwise be destroyed following IVF, will be introduced to the US Congress....
31 August 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A ruling of a district federal judge has halted federally-funded embryonic stem cell research in the United States...
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...
8 March 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
A US company has been granted beneficial 'orphan drug' status by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an embryonic stem cell therapy it's developing to treat a rare form of blindness...
1 February 2010 - by Nishat Hyder 
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has approved the first human embryonic stem cell (ES) line from the George W Bush era, according to Nature News. It will be included on the National Stem Cell Registry (NSCR), ensuring its eligibility for federal funding....
21 December 2009 - by Nishat Hyder 
The scientific research community in the US has had much cause to celebrate this past year following President Obama taking office and swiftly implementing a decidedly more liberal policy towards human embryonic stem cell (ES) research than was hitherto in place. Earlier this month the National Institutes of Health (NIH) approved 13 new ES cell lines under the new ethical standards. However, the granting of federal funding for research projects on ES cell lines - a key policy c...
11 December 2009 - by Nishat Hyder 
Regulators in the US have approved 13 new human embryonic stem cell (ES cell)lines - the first to be approved since President Obama lifted the restriction on stem cell research earlier this year in March. The 13 stem cell lines are the first the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has approved under the ethical guidelines that were unveiled in July; they are also the first new stem cells lines available to US scientists in almost a decade. It is hoped that the new lines, which are of
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