Wednesday, December 02, 2009

NIH Approves New Embryonic Stem Cell Lines For Research

President Obama vastly expanded the embryonic stem cell research in March 2009, and the NIH has approved new embryonic stem cell lines created as a result of that decision.
Two of the newly approved 13 lines were derived by Dr. Brivanlou with private financing. The rest were prepared by Dr. George Daley of Children’s Hospital, Boston.

Dr. Daley said that private financing had been drying up and that he was eager to start research on the now-approved cell lines with the help of his federal grant money.

The director of the health agency, Dr. Francis S. Collins, said he believed most researchers would be satisfied with the outcome, even though they were still barred from deriving the cells themselves. “I’m not sure everyone is interested in deriving their own cell lines as long as they can get lines from others,” Dr. Collins said.

Researchers’ interest in human embryonic stem cells has abated since the discovery in 2007 by the Japanese biologist Dr. Shinya Yamanaka that the mature cells of the body can be reprogrammed to the embryonic state.

These induced embryonic cells are highly similar to the real thing but may not be exactly the same. One reason is that the mature cell may perceive the forced walk-back to embryonic state as unauthorized and switch on its anticancer defenses.
Bear in mind that embryonic stem cell research first received federal funding under the Bush Administration, who limited it to certain lines then in existence because of concerns over the ethics and morality of using such tissue and cells (particularly in how they were procured). It was a compromise, but one that the right wing couldn't stand. This is an expansion of a program started under the Bush Administration and enacted August 9, 2001 and a policy expanding stem cell research from 2007. The Obama Administration repealed those decisions March 9, 2009, replacing it with his own policy that is more expansive. This is the first fruit borne from that decision.

However, in the intervening years between President Bush's initial decision and today, researchers have found that adult stem cells can be programmed to act like embryonic stem cells, eliminating the moral and ethical quandary that set President Bush to limit embryonic stem cell research in the first place.

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