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September 30, 2002
Volume 80, Number 39
CENEAR 80 39 p. 10
ISSN 0009-2347


STEM CELL RESEARCH

RULES QUESTIONED
Senators told availability of cell lines is proving to be a barrier to research

WILLIAM SCHULZ

At a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing last week, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni was grilled by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) regarding the impact of the Bush Administration’s regulations that prohibit the use of embryonic stem cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001, in federally funded research.

After hearing several scientists testify about the difficulty of obtaining embryonic stem cells that meet the Administration’s guidelines, Specter asked Zerhouni if sufficient cell lines are available to move the field forward.

“That’s not knowable yet,” Zerhouni said. “I really don’t know the answer.”
NIH has identified about 78 cell lines that meet the Administration’s criteria, but only five have had any significant distribution to researchers. Zerhouni has appointed an NIH Stem Cell Task Force—it had its first meeting this month—to deal with the availability of cells and related issues.

Scientists testifying at the hearing called for an end to restrictions on the use of new cell lines, asked that NIH be authorized to establish an embryonic stem cell bank, and pushed for a green light on so-called therapeutic cloning. By the end of the hearing, Specter was calling for new legislation. “The time has come to legislate in the field,” he said.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) was concerned about the effect of the Administration rules on U.S. research. She noted that one of the stem cell researchers testifying at the hearing, Roger Pederson, had worked at the University of California, San Francisco. But after last year’s announcement of the new Administration policy, Pederson moved his research group to Cambridge University in the U.K., rather than trying to live with the new stem cell regulations.

“I want this research done in America,” Hutchison said to Pederson. “And I want you to
come home.



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Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society



 
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