New Stem Cell Rules: May Deny Federal Funding for Research Approved by Bush

May 25, 2009

(ChattahBox)—President Obama’s new stem cell rules, abolishing restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, put in place during the Bush administration, are running into some unintended snags.

Tasked with developing the new policies into a set of written guidelines, the NIH devised a proposed set of ethical rules, which would result in rendering current research ineligible for federal funding, requiring scientists to throw out their research and start over.

This scenario has stem cell researchers up in arms, but on the other hand is receiving praise from opponents of using embryonic stem cells.

Along with lifting restrictions on stem cell research, President Obama mandated that such research have safeguards in place, ensuring it’s “scientifically worthy” and “ethically responsible.”

The new guidelines are expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, but at the same time are tightening up ethical guidelines.

The new rules limit funding to lines created from unused embryos that would be discarded by infertility clinics, and also require couples to sign a written consent form spelling out other options, such as donating their embryos to other couples.

The stricter consent forms would apply to current research, having the effect of wiping out years of research on current cells lines approved under the Bush administration.

Researchers claim research on current lines passed strict ethical guidelines, but not within the letter of the law of the new rules. They are now extremely worried that years of valuable research may go down the drain.

During the Bush administration, President Bush restricted federal funding to 21 colonies, or lines of stem cells that were already in use by researchers. Additionally, researchers created their own lines using private funding.

Out of the 21 existing Bush approved lines; only two would survive scrutiny under the NIH’s new guidelines. Whether the hundreds of private lines would pass muster under the guidelines is unknown at this point.

Raynard S. Kington, acting NIH director is aware of the concerns contained in nearly 20,000 comments received so far by the agency, noting that Obama’s intent was to expand opportunities and research in stem cell research.

The deadline for public comments ends on Tuesday with the new rules due to take effect in July, and researchers are hoping the new guidelines will not be applied retroactively to ban studies on current stem cell lines.

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