NIH rules more stem cells eligible for funding

About Scott Hensley

Scott Hensley runs NPR's online health channel, Shots. Previously he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and covered the drug industry and the Human Genome Project for the Journal. Hensley serves on AHCJ's board of directors. You can follow him at @ScottHensley.

Right off the bat let’s just note that the promised cures from stem cells have been slow in coming.

Science is hard. But many researchers trying to harness embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to produce any kind of cell in the human body, say restrictions on the cells that qualify for federal funding have made the work even harder. (AHCJ article – Covering stem cells: Background on science, politics and global competition)

Human embryonic stem cellsWhen stem cells like these human embryonic stem cells divide, each new cell has the potential to remain a stem cell or become a cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell or a red blood cell. Photo: National Institutes of Health

Earlier this year the Obama administration rolled back limits from the Bush era that restricted federal funding to only a few cell lines. But it still hasn’t been clear which stem cells are OK and which are verboten.

The National Institutes of Health has waded in with clarifying guidelines that take effect today. The upshot: if the old cell lines were created ethically, then they should be good to go. The main issue is whether researchers got the appropriate consent of donors.

Next up, an NIH committee will pass judgment on existing cells and produce a Web site itemizing the ones that are legit.

“Every institution shouldn’t have to rediscover which cell lines are eligible for NIH funding, so having a registry is very practical,” George Q. Daley, a stem-cell researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston told The New York Times.

AHCJ resourcesCovering stem cells: Background on science, politics and global competition

Tip Sheet: Stem cell research in California

Intense competition in stem cell research: Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes a three-part series detailing the discovery of how to create embryonic stem cells out of normal cells. The online package includes a time-lapse video of an embryo’s first five days of development and links to a discussion about the ethics of stem cell research.

Obama order expected to increase speed, efficiency of stem cell research

National Center for Biotechnology Information

Medical Advances: Treatments, Cures, Possibilities: Presentations from this Knight Center for Specialized Journalism seminar are available.

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