Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Monday he will establish an advisory panel of National Institute of Health (NIH) scientists to research and advise him on the “scientific” and “moral” issues involved in stem cell research before he makes a decision on the fate of government funded stem cell research grants. The NIH will continue to accept grant applications for stem cell research, but Thompson has said he would not issue any government grants until after he reviewed the advisory panel’s findings. The panel will examine all issues surrounding stem cell research, including alternate sources for stem cells that do not involve using discarded human embryos.
Research done on stem cells from human embryos, which are extracted from fertility clinics’ unused embryos, has shown the cells have enormous potential to cure debilitating ailments like diabetes, AIDS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gherig’s disease. Numerous scientific researchers and organizations have voiced their support for stem cell research, including 80 US Nobel laureates who signed a letter to President Bush urging him not to block federal funding for research on stem cells from human embryo cells. Twenty-five medical organizations including the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research support stem cell research. US anti-choice activists have fiercely protested against research using cells from aborted fetuses or fertility clinics’ surplus embryosÑembryos that are destined to be destroyed.