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New guidelines complicate US stem cell research

Rules out many existing lines

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Newly recommended ethical guidelines for human embryo stem cell research in the US could rule out further research using several of the existing, and approved lines, according to reports.

The National Academy of Sciences issued the voluntary guidelines last week (see the press release here). They recommend gaining full and informed and detailed consent from the men and women who donate sperm and eggs for use in stem cell research, Science Daily reports. In this, the Academy goes further than the President did in 2001, when he stipulated that couples who donated embryos had to have given informed consent if the stem cell research was to gain federal funding.

James Battey, previously responsible for overseeing federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, told Science Daily that some couples who donated their embryos had been treated for infertility and had used sperm from donors who had not given explicit consent for any resulting embryos to be used in medical research.

Bush's policy approved 78 lines of embryonic stem cells already in existence, but the NAS's suggestion would reduce that to just 22 lines. Some of those 22 lines are not considered viable, and others could be contaminated with animal cells.

Supporters of stem cell research say that all is not lost since informed consent could still be obtained from the donors, if they can be found. ®

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