The National Institutes of Health (4/28/10) announced that 13 additional lines of human embryonic stem cells are eligible for federal funding. The NIH’s approval of the lines should alleviate mounting concerns among some supporters of stem cell research that the Obama administration was hindering the work.
The federal approval includes 9 lines that had never before been eligible for federal funding and 4 ong-used lines derived by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, known as H7, H9, H13 and H14. H9 is the most widely used.
Obama’s attempt to loosen the funding restrictions was complicated by a thicket of ethical issues. Last summer, the NIH issued detailed guidelines aimed at addressing the concerns. They included stringent requirements that any lines being studied with the help of federal funding meet strict new ethical criteria, including ensuring that couples who donated embryos were fully informed of other options.
However, it remains unclear how many of the original 21 lines were derived at a time when ethical requirements were less specific. That left in doubt how many would pass muster under the new guidelines.
- With the new approval of H7 and H9, and with prior approval of earlier lines, stem cell lines responsible for 89% of scientific publications from 1999 to 2008 are now approved under the new guidelines.
Many people who had been working on these lines and concerned about whether they would be able to continue to work with these lines, will now be reassured that their research can now go forward. (HWM and Wash Post)