President Obama galvanized the research community on March 9 of this year, when he called for a new, much-less restrictive set of guidelines for federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research than those established by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The guidelines themselves were adopted in July of this year. Although they allowed for the federal funding of cell lines derived after Aug. 2001, they came with a caveat: the researchers must be able to show that the donation of the embryos used to create the lines met strict ethical criteria. The National Institutes of Health established a review process as the first step to creating a new registry of approved cell lines.
The NIH announced today that the first 13 human embryonic stem cell lines have been approved for funding. Eleven of the lines were developed at Children's Hospital Boston, and two at Rockefeller University in New York City. According to the release, more than 20 cell lines will be considered tomorrow, and 76 additional lines are in the queue for review. NIH director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, expects the number to continue to increase.
"I am happy to say that we now have human embryonic stem cell lines eligible for use by our research community under our new stem cell policy," Dr. Collins said. "In accordance with the guidelines, these stem cell lines were derived from embryos that were donated under ethically sound informed consent processes. More lines are under review now, and we anticipate continuing to expand this list of responsibly derived lines eligible for NIH funding."