Draft National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research - First Comments

The National Institutes of Health has just released its draft guidelines on future stem cell research in the USA. It is also seeking public debate on these guidelines with a view to establishing firm guidelines for funding bodies giving grants to stem cell researchers.

Here is what seems to be the crucial conclusions of the current stem cell research draft guidelines:

"These draft Guidelines would allow funding for research using only those human embryonic stem cells that were derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and were no longer needed for that purpose. Funding will continue to be allowed for human stem cell research using adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Specifically, these Guidelines describe the conditions and informed consent procedures that would have been required during the derivation of human embryonic stem cells for research using these cells to be funded by the NIH. NIH funding for research using human embryonic stem cells derived from other sources, including somatic cell nuclear transfer, parthenogenesis, and/or IVF embryos created for research purposes, is not allowed under these Guidelines."

On first reading, the NIH has tried to placate both the research community and the largely Christian right-wing anti embryonic stem cell research lobby. After all, the arguments are largely about embryonic stem cells but here we find that essentially the same embryonic stem cells from two different IVF sources are treated in two different ways. There seems no logic as to why spare embryos from an IVF clinic should be treated differently to an IVF embryo created specifically for research purposes. It also opens up a way around the proposed legislation by encouraging IVF so as to harvest the resulting embryos rather than primarily for fertility reasons. Shoddy piece of logic and, from what I've seen so far, both sides are up in arms.
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