The Bush administration's clampdown on embryonic stem cell research came to a formal end yesterday with a new set of rules for the field that will broaden federal funding to hundreds of embryonic stem cell lines created by private groups over the past seven years.
Going forward, federal funding will be available for stem cells derived from embryos that would otherwise be discarded and have been provided to researchers with the consent of the donor. And in a compromise with the research community, stem cell lines derived earlier in the spirit of those ethical guidelines will also be eligible for federal funds. That modification of the rules will greatly expand the number of cell lines that now qualify for federal funds.
"The guidelines allow NIH to fund scientifically worthy research using responsibly derived human embryonic stem cells," Dr. Raynard Kington, acting director of the NIH, told reporters. There are an estimated 700 stem cell lines that were created in the past seven years. Under the Bush administration, funding for ESC work was limited to the lines in existence when then President Bush announced the restrictions at the beginning of his first term. Limitations are still in place, though. Federal funds won't be used to support research involving embryos created for research purposes or generated by cloning and other controversial technologies.
Researchers around the country say that the new rules should open the spigot to millions of dollars in additional research funds.