Page URL:

US embryonic stem cell researchers face logistical and funding difficulties

19 December 2011
Appeared in BioNews 638

A survey of over 200 human embryonic stem cell (hESC) researchers in the US has found almost four in ten respondents had experienced delays in obtaining cell lines and over one quarter said they were unable to obtain a required cell line at all. The results, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, suggest US researchers continue to face logistical and funding difficulties in obtaining cell lines for research.

'The survey results provide empirical data to support previously anecdotal concerns that delays in acquiring or an inability to acquire certain [hESC] lines may be hindering stem cell science in the US', said study author Dr Aaron Levine, assistant professor at the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.

Almost 400 scientists from 32 states responded to the online survey, of which 205 said they used hESCs in research. Over three quarters of respondents reported using no more than three cell lines out of the over 1,000 existing lines potentially available, with around half citing access issues as the primary limitation.

Respondents indicated a failure to obtain research approval and federal policy considerations as some of the main reasons for their problems in accessing cell lines, as well as difficulties encountered in completing transfer agreements and some scientists' unwillingness to share cell lines with others.

'Bureaucratic challenges may be inevitable in this ethically contentious and politically sensitive field, but policymakers should attempt to mitigate these issues by doing things like encouraging institutions to accept third-party ownership verification and providing clearer guidance on [hESC] research not eligible for federal funding', said Dr Levine.

The availability of federal funds for hESC research in the US remains at risk. A date has been set for an appeal brought by two scientists who claim that guidelines easing restrictions on hESC research issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are illegal. Dr James Sherley and Theresa Deisher argue the NIH policy violates a 1996 law which prohibits federal funding for research which involves the destruction of human embryos and argue the money is better spent on research using adult stem cell.

A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments on 23 April next year with its decision expected in the autumn.

Access to human embryonic stem cell lines
Nature Biotechnology |  8 December 2011
Births deaths and marriages
Government of Southern Australia Consumer and Business Services |  17 January 2022
Contentious Questions: Aaron Levine Confronts Ethical Issues in Biotechnology
Georgia Tech |  17 January 2022
Dates, Judges Set in Appeal of Stem Cell Suit
Science |  9 December 2011
Scientists Have Trouble Accessing Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines, Says Survey
NewsWise |  12 December 2011
8 October 2012 - by Tom Barrow 
The future funding of human embryonic stem cell research under the European Union may be in jeopardy after its inclusion in the next research funding programme is challenged by MEPs....
3 September 2012 - by Victoria Kay 
The US Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling permitting the use of federal funds for research involving human embryonic stem cells....
25 June 2012 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Six major UK research funding bodies have called for the continued funding of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research in the EU's programme for research and development...
8 May 2012 - by Dr Greg Ball 
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are primed to self destruct in response to DNA damage in the developing embryo, scientists have reported. The research found that hESCs are highly responsive to DNA damage in the early stages of development, and can commit suicide for the greater good...
13 February 2012 - by Ruth Retassie 
US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called for a commission to investigate the ethical issues around IVF. He also wants a ban on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, including research on donated embryos left over from IVF....
26 September 2011 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
Lawyers acting for two US scientists who sought to challenge the legality of a decision by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to allow research on new embryonic stem (ES) cell lines have filed a notice of appeal. They seek to reverse the decision made against them by a district judge in July...
19 August 2011 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Should human embryonic stem cell research be deemed unethical for its embryo destruction? The US court decision in Sherley v Sebelius on 27 July 2011 to allow federal funding of this research set a global precedent. The meaning of research was divided into two categories: that which directly involves embryo destruction and that which does not...
1 August 2011 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
A District Court judge in the US has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to ban federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. The decision, by Judge Royce Lambeth, is the latest development in the case of Sherley v Sebelius – a landmark lawsuit filed against the US's state-funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2009...
13 December 2010 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
The US courts are currently attempting to decide whether human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research may continue to receive federal funding, after a lawsuit was brought against the US Government last year....
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.