Obama Adminstration Releases Final Rules On Stem Cell Research
The Obama administration released final regulations governing stem cell research on Monday. The New York Times reports that the rules will allow many older stem cell lines to be eligible for federally financed research. "The changes came in response to criticism from scientists that the rules that the administration proposed in April - requiring that donors of fertilized eggs sign extensive consent forms - would have made even some of the stem cell lines approved by the Bush administration ineligible for further money," the Times reports. "Scientists using stem cell lines created before Tuesday may seek review by a group of the Advisory Committee to the Director."
Dr. Raynard S. Kington, acting director of NIH, said that older stem cell lines will be approved if they were created under conditions that met the spirit of the new rules. The New York Times notes: "The crucial test is whether the embryos used to create the stem cell lines were created for reproductive purposes, and whether donors freely consented for their use in research procedures. ... Some older stem cell lines will be eligible, but [Kington] refused to speculate which of the older lines would be approved. ... The rules still forbid financing of research using stem cell lines from embryos created solely for research. With more than $10 billion in stimulus money, health institute officials have been eager to expand stem cell research. Just 21 stem cell lines have been eligible for federal financing under the old rules. But researchers using private money have created more than 700 stem cell lines" (Harris, 7/6).
NPR reports: "Scientists say the new rules will give them a lot more freedom to do research that could one day lead to better treatments for injuries and disease." It notes: "Eight years ago, President George W. Bush came up with a policy that allowed federal dollars to pay for some stem cell research - but only using about 20 stem cell lines that had existed before August 2001. In the years since, says Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, scientists have learned to make much better stem cell lines. But those didn't meet approval for federal funds." But what will not be allowed is therapeutic cloning, which is a "controversial practice in which scientists obtain stem cells by cloning a human embryo. But scientists now think they may be able to one day use skin cells - not embryonic stem cells - to create cloned human tissue or even a complete human organ" (Shapiro, 7/7).
"President Obama lifted restrictions on the field in March, but left it to the National Institutes of Health to decide what stem cell research was ethically appropriate: only science that uses cells culled from leftover fertility clinic embryos -- ones that otherwise would be thrown away, the agency made clear in draft guidelines," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The issue: Trying to harness embryonic stem cells -- master cells that can morph into any cell of the body -- to create better treatments, maybe even cures, for such ailments as diabetes, Parkinson's and spinal cord injury. Culling those stem cells destroys a days-old embryo, which many strongly oppose on moral grounds. Once created, those cells can propagate indefinitely in lab dishes" (7/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.