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NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | NIH Announces Final Guidelines for Federally Funded Embryonic Stem Cell Research

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | NIH Announces Final Guidelines for Federally Funded Embryonic Stem Cell Research
[July 7, 2009]

NIH on Monday announced final guidelines for assessing whether newly created embryonic stem cell lines can be used for federally funded research, as well as clarifying how old lines will be evaluated, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 7/7). In March, President Obama overturned former President George W. Bush's policy limiting federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to 21 lines. Obama asked NIH to develop new guidelines that would govern such research going forward. The agency received about 49,000 comments on a draft version of the guidelines announced in April (Vergano, USA Today, 7/7).

The final guidelines, which take effect on Tuesday, state that stem cell lines used in federally funded research must come from embryos discarded after in vitro fertilization procedures. In addition, donors must have been informed that the embryo would be destroyed for stem cell research and made fully aware of other options, which include donating the embryo to other individuals for use in infertility treatments. Lastly, donors cannot be paid for an embryo, and no threats or other inducement can be part of the decision to donate (Vedantam, Washington Post, 7/7).

Raynard Kington, acting director of NIH, said that lines developed before Tuesday likely would be approved if they were created in the spirit of the new rules, even if they do not follow them to the letter (Harris, New York Times, 7/7). NIH's Advisory Committee to the Director will review such lines on a case-by-case basis. NIH also will create a registry of qualifying stem cell lines for use by researchers (Los Angeles Times, 7/7).

Kington said, "Many of the lines already in existence may have met very rigorous standards of informed consent but may have been implemented in ways not consistent with the present guidelines." He added, "It's unreasonable to retroactively apply procedures intended for future use" (New York Times, 7/7). Kington also said of the new guidelines, "We think this is a reasonable compromise to achieve the president's goal of both advancing science while maintaining rigorous ethical standards. We believe that judgment is necessary" (Los Angeles Times, 7/7).

Broadcast Coverage

NPR's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday reported on the stem cell guidelines (Shapiro, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/7).