Issue Date: May 24, 2004
ZERHOUNI ON STEM CELLS
A letter to Congress from NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni defends the Bush Administration's policy on human embryonic stem cell research while suggesting that more stem cell lines might increase the pace of research.
The letter is a response to one from Congress that called for the White House to expand current policy (C&EN, May 3, page 22).
Zerhouni, who wrote the letter on behalf of President George W. Bush, outlined NIH's commitment to funding stem cell research that uses the approved 78 cell lines--19 of which are currently usable. He addressed representatives' concerns over the impact of limited federal funding in terms of attracting new scientists and in possibly pushing stem cell research overseas. He also noted that the usable cell lines are sufficient to support basic research. However, he added, it is not clear just what can be accomplished with those cell lines.
"And although it is also fair to say that from a purely scientific perspective more cell lines may speed some areas of [human embryonic stem cell] research, the President's position is still predicated on his belief that taxpayer funds should not 'sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life,'" Zerhouni wrote.
"While I understand President Bush has ethical and moral concerns, I do believe we can work within his framework to address those concerns while at the same time push science forward," said Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), coauthor with Rep. Diana L. DeGette (D-Colo.) of the congressional letter. "I am going to continue to talk with the Administration and see if there is a way to craft a meaningful change that is acceptable to all sides."
- Chemical & Engineering News
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