The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued new regulations Monday that ease restrictions on stem cell research. The new guidelines allow the use of embryonic stem cells that have been discarded from in-vitro fertilization procedures if researchers can prove their methods are ethical and scientifically worthy. The new guidelines also allow for study of existing stem cell lines after approval by the Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH, according to the New York Times. Existing lines will be eligible only if they were created in the spirit of the new regulations.
In March, President Obama signed an executive order, entitled Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells, stating that “the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of NIH, may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.” The new guidelines, which expand on the order, ensure that ethical methods are followed including requiring informed consent and requiring that donors are not coerced to act.
According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration restricted funding to stem cell research by limiting the number of stem cell lines that could be used. Many scientists tout the potential of stem cells to cure illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes because of their ability to grow into any type of bodily tissue, reports Agence France Presse. Today, British Scientists announced that they have successfully created human sperm from stem cells.