On December 2, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) declared that 13 human stem cell lines met new NIH ethics criteria, reports USA Today.
This approval re-opens of a source of funding closed to researchers using human embryonic stem cells since the Bush Administration’s 2001 executive order. Since 2001, researchers otherwise supported by the NIH have had to raise private monies to derive stem cells from the fertilized embryos left over from fertility clinics, reports the New York Times. In March 2009, President Obama signed an executive order which lifted that ban.
The first thirteen lines is merely the beginning of several hundred lines to be reviewed by the NIH in the next several months. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, says that the NIH is reviewing new applications with extreme caution to ensure they meet ethics guidelines.
Eleven of the first 13 newly-approved lines were derived by Children’s Hospital Boston. They will be used to study rare congenital diseases. The other two stem cell lines were derived by Dr. Ali H. Brivanlou at Rockefeller University in New York.
This week (on Monday, December 14), the NIH approved another 27 human embryonic stem cell lines from Harvard University for federal research funding. The decision, however, limited funding to diabetes-related pancreatic cell experiments.
The second batch of cells, from Harvard University, have been used in studies of ALS, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and spinal injury, supported by other funding sources. A report in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science last year called them the 'gold standard', says USA Today. Let us hope that these 'gold standards' lead rapidly to treatments and a cure for ALS.