The proposed rules avoid "the morally thorny territory of creating embryos for research, which is . . . politically quite messy."
-- From "Draft rules expand stem cell research options" By Bina Venkataraman, [Boston] Globe Correspondent 4/18/09
The federal government yesterday released its draft rules for funding embryonic stem cell research - expanding opportunities but stopping short of allowing government-sponsored scientific projects to use human embryos created solely for experimental purposes.
The National Institutes of Health proposed limiting federally funded research to use of embryos that would otherwise be discarded from fertility clinics. That is expected to significantly expand the number of stem cell lines available to researchers who seek to do basic research and develop treatments for a variety of intractable diseases.
But the Obama administration made clear it does not intend to finance research that uses embryos created solely for research purposes or cloned by scientists - more controversial procedures with less public and congressional support.
Within minutes of yesterday's announcement, researchers in the Boston area publicly praised the proposed rules for making new research possible. Privately, some expressed concern that the rules might exclude certain lines of stem cells currently in use because there is no paper trail showing the original donors consented to their use. Some scientists elsewhere in the country are also concerned that the guidelines exclude cloned embryos that could be used to develop genetically tailored organs more effective for transplant.
Some researchers believe cloned embryos are important in developing genetically matched organs for transplant. But projects that use these more controversial human embryos are expected to continue, said Dr. Leonard Zon, director of the stem cell research program at Children's Hospital Boston, as long as they retain the support of private philanthropists.
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Unmentioned in the article are the other legislative hurdles yet resolved.