US stem cell research developments

26 June 2007

As anticipated, US president George Bush has again used his presidential veto to block government-approved legislation to increase access to state funding for embryonic stem cell research (see previous news), reportedly saying "I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line" (see Nature news). The proposed legislative amendments would permit federal funding of stem cell research using excess embryos from fertility clinics; these unused embryos are otherwise destroyed. Although both the US Senate and House have previously voted in favour, a two-thirds majority is required to override presidential veto. Further attempts to pass the legislation are expected.

In the same week, researchers from a US company claim to have grown human embryonic stem-cells by a method that does not harm the embryos, taking just one cell from an early stage embryo in a similar manner to that used for pre-natal diagnosis of genetic disease in embryos for in vitro fertilisation. Advanced Cell Technology reported the approach at the meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (see Reuters news). Preliminary results for the production of stem cell lines from a single embryonic cell were published last year (see journal club article), but no live embryos were preserved at that time. The company hopes that this approach could bypass ethical objections to embryonic stem cell research, but nevertheless expressed disappointment with the president’s veto (see press release).

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