Federal stem cell guidelines welcomed by public interest group
Center for Genetics and Society says NIH is drawing appropriate lines
The new federal guidelines for stem cell research were welcomed today by the Center for Genetics and Society, a policy research and advocacy organization.
"The National Institutes of Health guidelines open the door for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, and ensure that it will be conducted responsibly," said Marcy Darnovsky, PhD, the Center's associate executive director. "They will help keep related practices that are unneeded, controversial and risky off the table."
President Barack Obama's March 9 executive order removed the Bush administration's restrictions on the federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, but left the precise details up to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The agency today released draft guidelines, which would permit the funding of research with stem cell lines derived from embryos created but not used for fertility purposes, and establish strong requirements for informed consent. The new guidelines exclude federal funding for work with any potential stem cell lines derived from cloned human embryos using the procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer.
"Cloning-based stem cell research lays the technical foundation for human reproductive cloning - which the U.S., unlike dozens of other countries, has not yet prohibited - and requires enormous numbers of human eggs, whose extraction poses health risks to women. Despite years of work, no researcher has created a clonal human embryo viable enough to yield stem cells," said Jesse Reynolds, policy analyst at the Center. "In contrast, alternative methods of cellular reprogramming have largely achieved the goals of cloning-based work. The NIH was wise in leaving such risky work outside the domain of federal funding."
Since their development less than two years ago, new reprogramming methods to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) have advanced considerably. By contrast, cloning-based work has seen little progress in the past decade. Some scientists have abandoned cloning in favor of the new methods. Meanwhile, human reproductive cloning remains legal at the federal level and in most states.
"The next step is for Congress to heed President Obama's call for a ban on human reproductive cloning," added Darnovsky. "The United States' lack of such a policy stands in contrast to almost every other industrialized country."
The Center for Genetics and Society has prepared a stem cell backgrounder [PDF] with brief answers to frequently asked questions about the science of stem cell research and the federal policies that apply to it.
The Center has also prepared a comprehensive set of recommendations [PDF] for the Obama Administration addressing genetic, reproductive, and biomedical technologies.
The Center is a non-profit public affairs and policy advocacy organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic and reproductive biotechnologies.