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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
- About Us
Stem Cell Review Setback
16 April 2001 7:00 pm
Advocates for research with human embryonic stem cells are worried by the latest twist in the cells' political story. Last week the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cancelled its planned meeting of the panel that is supposed to determine whether a given stem cell line was derived in accordance with NIH's ethical guidelines (ScienceNOW, 3 April). Because NIH can't fund projects until their cell lines have been approved by the panel, the cancellation delays indefinitely federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cells have the potential to develop into any cell type in the body, and many scientists would like to discover how to use them to treat intractable diseases such as diabetes or Parkinson's disease. However, the work is controversial because the cells are derived from week-old human embryos. Although a clause in the law that funds NIH prevents the agency from funding research that would harm or destroy an embryo, a lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services ruled in 1999 that because stem cells--which can grow ad infinitum in culture--are not themselves embryos, the NIH could fund work with cells that were derived by privately funded researchers or researchers overseas.
After George W. Bush was elected president, however, he asked the new Health and Human Services secretary, Tommy Thompson (who oversees NIH), to review the legality of that ruling. The department has been tight-lipped about its review process. A spokesperson would not name the participants, saying only that Thompson is drawing on "the appropriate legal and scientific expertise" to examine the current policy. He said the department has no timetable for finishing the review.
The NIH had scheduled the first meeting of the Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Review Group for 25 April, where the panel was to review at least one group of cells derived with private funds by Australian researchers Martin Pera and Alan Trounson and their colleagues. However, the meeting has been cancelled pending the review of stem cell guidelines, NIH said last week. "The [Health and Human Services] department told us inasmuch as they're conducting a review, it was premature for the review group to meet to assess compliance" with the guidelines, said NIH spokesperson Anne Thomas.
Some stem cell advocates worry that the move could signal the Bush Administration's intention to block NIH funding for the work. "I'm traditionally an optimist, but I don't take this as a very good sign," says Tim Leshan of the American Society of Cell Biology, which has been lobbying in favor of embryonic stem cell research.
Meanwhile, Senators Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced a bill on 5 April that would authorize NIH to fund derivation of and research on human embryonic stem cells. Two antiabortion senators have also signed on to the bill, Senators Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) and Gordon Smith (R-Oregon).