Governments and stem cell research

17 December 2009

In the US, regulators have approved thirteen new lines of human embryonic stem (HES) cells for use by federally-funded researchers, with many more new lines expected to be approved soon if they are found to meet ethical requirements (see BBC news). The current NIH Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research were established this year after President Barack Obama moved to ease previously strict regulation put in place by the previous administration (see previous news). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) may establish a central repositary for the storage and distribution of approved HES cell lines in the face of demand for new lines.

Work using stem cells derived from alternative sources also continues, and US researchers recently announced promising results - researchers rarely announce results that are not in some way promising - from trials to treat damaged corneas in mice using human umbilical cord stem cells (see BBC news). It is hoped that regenerative medicine using stem cells could eventually help address a serious shortage of organs (including corneas) available for transplantation.

In Italy, scientists have lost a legal appeal against proposals from the health ministry for stem-cell biology funding that specifically exclude HES cells, despite the fact that the use of HES cells is not prohibited (see Nature news). However, the stem cell research community in India will welcome news that construction of a major new Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) in Bangalore has begun (see Science news) following government approval in July (see Indian Express news).

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