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[IP] Funds Proposed for Embryo Research

For those of you who don't think fetal cell research is a violation of any 
religious or ethical rules, please read on...If you DO think it is wrong, 
please skip this post!!!

WASHINGTON (AP) - Research using master cells derived from human embryos will 
be funded by the government for the first time under tightly controlled 
guidelines proposed by National Institutes of Health.   The draft guidelines, 
to be published Thursday, would ``help ensure that NIH-funded research in 
this area is conducted in an ethical and legal manner,'' the agency said. The 
research rules specifically forbid human cloning or mixing human stem cells 
with animal or human embryos.

Groups opposed to abortion immediately objected to the plans. The National 
Right to Life Committee said the guidelines ``would result in federal 
sponsorship and funding of experiments in which living human embryos are 
dissected and killed - a clear violation of federal law..

On the other side, the Patients' Coalition for Urgent Research described stem 
cell research as ``a new area of science with tremendous promise for 
alleviating and even curing catastrophic illness.'' It said therapy from stem 
cell research could benefit more than 100 million patients nationwide.

The research involves what are called pluripotent stem cells. These are the 
basic biological building blocks of the body. During gestation, they evolve 
into the many organs and tissues. Scientists believe it may be possible to 
use these cells to grow new organs to replace ailing hearts and treat brain 
disorders, or even cure diabetes by growing new insulin-producing cells.  

Pluripotent stem cells used in research are isolated from human embryos to 
create an endless-growing population of identical cells. The cells can then 
be manipulated to create other types of cells and, possibly, whole organs, 
scientists say.

Dr. Harold Varmus, director of the NIH, has contended that using stem cells 
does not violate laws forbidding federally funded human embryo research 
because the cells were developed by researchers using private funds. And 
lawyers in the Department of Health and Human Services have concluded that 
federal funding of stem cell research is legal because the cells are, 
technically, not embryos.

In effect, NIH funding would not be involved in working with embryos 
themselves, but only with the cells that were derived from embryos by private 

However, the guidelines would allow federal funding for research that 
includes extracting stem cells from human fetal tissue, as well as research 
utilizing such cells. An embryo becomes a fetus in about the eighth week of 

President Clinton directed the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to 
consider the issue. The group's report recommended that the NIH be permitted 
to fund pluripotent cell research, and the new guidelines generally follow 
the commission's recommendations.

A number of groups, including 70 members of Congress, have objected to 
federal funding of stem cell research because the cells must originate from 
the death of a human embryo. The lawmakers sent a letter last February to HHS 
secretary Donna Shalala claiming that human stem cell research would be a 
violation of federal law.

Rep. Christian Smith, R-N.J., a leading opponent of the research, called the 
new guidelines ``a sham.''  ``They attempt to give a glow of respectability 
to truly barbaric and grotesque experiments on human beings,'' Smith said 

Many members of Congress, however, support the research. Rep. Nita Lowey, 
D-N.Y., said in a statement that stem cell research ``offers Americans the 
promise of better treatment and perhaps even cures for diseases like cancer, 
Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes..  Douglas Johnson, the right to life 
group's legislative director, said in a statement the guidelines mean that 
``for the first time, human embryos will be deliberately killed under the 
sponsorship of the federal government.''

Johnson said his organization encourages research on stem cells ``obtained in 
ways that do not kill living members of the human family.''

Under the guidelines, pluripotent cell research would be funded by NIH only 
if the cells were already removed from the embryos, or removed from fetuses 
under existing federal guidelines.

At least two privately funded research groups have established cell lines - a 
group of cells that endlessly multiply - which originated from human embryos 
or fetuses. The cells are now being used in private research.   The 
guidelines also require that cells in NIH-funded research be derived only 
from embryos that were ``in excess of clinical need'' at fertility clinics, 
and that the donors of the embryos must give fully informed consent to the 
ultimate use of the embryos.

Additionally, the guidelines call for:

Establishment of a Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Review Group to assure that 
the rules are followed.

Excluding from federal funding any research linked to human cloning.

Excluding research involving adding stem cells to human or animal eggs or 
embryos, a procedure that theoretically could lead to cloning.

Excluding funding for research using human embryonic stem cells extracted 
from embryos that were created expressly for research. In effect, all embryos 
that produce the stem cells must have been discarded by fertility clinics and 
not created in the laboratory.

The draft guidelines were drawn up by an advisory committee named by Varmus 
and will be published in the Federal Register for 60 days of public comment. 
The NIH said the research would not start until final guidelines have been 
published and an oversight committee is in place.


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