The Washington Post

New Rules on Stem Cells Threaten Current Research
The Washington Post

When President Obama lifted restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research in March, many scientists hailed the move as a long-awaited boost for one of the most promising fields of medical research.

Since then, however, many proponents have concluded that the plan could have the opposite effect, putting off-limits for federal support much of the research underway, including work that the Bush administration endorsed. « We’re very concerned, » said Amy Comstock Rick, chief executive of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, which has been leading the effort to free up more federal funding for stem cell research. « If they don’t change this, very little current research would be eligible. It’s a huge issue. » The concern focuses on strict new ethics criteria that the National Institutes of Health has proposed.

To avoid encouraging the destruction of more embryos, President George W. Bush in 2001 restricted federal funding to what turned out to be 21 colonies, or « lines, » of stem cells that were already growing in laboratories.

No one is certain exactly how many stem cell lines exist or how many would comply with the requirements in the guidelines. But a review of the 21 lines that Bush had approved indicates that perhaps just two would be eligible, and that most of the hundreds of others created since then would fall short.