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NIH Approves First Embryonic Stem Cell Lines for Research

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist The government has approved the first human embryonic stem-cell lines to be used in taxpayer funded research, saying the lines were derived from “low-grade” embryos that were “destined for waste.” The announcement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) came yesterday with NIH director Francis Collins saying the 13 new stem-cell lines were created in a manner that was "beyond reproach" and "ethically defensible." The Associated Press is reporting that as much as $21 million of taxpayer money could be used to fund research with these new lines. The NIH also indicated that this is just the beginning with the agency currently in the process of reviewing 96 more batches of stem cell lines, 20 of which will be reviewed on Friday. The approval came less than a year after President Barack Obama reversed an executive order put in place by former President George W. Bush which restricted funding for the controversial research. President Bush limited federally funded research to 21 stem-cell ines that were created as of Aug, 2001, but refused to allow any more because he didn’t want a federal incentive in place that would encourage the destruction of human embryos. Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the secretariat of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, criticized the NIH move, saying it "encourages scientists to keep destroying live human embryos for their stem cells to qualify for federal grants." Embryonic stem cells can develop into many types of tissue and could be used to treat a variety of diseases, even though the research has been hampered by problems such as tumor growth and rejection. In the meantime, research using adult stem cells has flourished and is currently being used to treat more than 100 conditions, making many believe the controversial and problematic embryonic stem cell research is becoming obsolete. "The science has moved on, and the political agenda is lagging behind," Mr. Doerflinger said. George Q. Daley, the doctor at Children's Hospital in Boston who developed the stem-cell lines approved Wednesday, told the Wall Street Journal that he used only embryos that were "essentially destined for waste," calling the embryos "low grade," meaning they were less likely to produce a pregnancy. He said he has created 100 vials of the stem-cells, which will be sold for a fee of $500 to qualified researchers who want to use them. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®