Researchers working with human embryonic stem cell lines may soon be able to use federal funding to support work on a wide range of derived lines, thanks to a bipartisan bill introduced in the House last week.
The legislation seeks to expand U.S. policy on stem cell research. Set by President George W. Bush in August 2001, the current policy limits federal support to work done on the lines in existence at that time. Of the 78 lines initially covered by this policy, only 19 lines are currently usable.
“This legislation will allow research to move at a pace determined by science, not the government,” said bill cosponsor Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). The bill allows embryos that were originally created for fertility treatments, but are no longer needed and scheduled to be discarded, to be donated and used for stem cell line derivation. Written consent for the donation would be required, and no financial or other incentives could be used.
“We believe a majority of our House colleagues support us on expanding this policy,” said Mike Castle (R-Del.). Both the House and Senate have voiced bipartisan support for such an expansion in letters to the President. The House letter was signed by 206 representatives (C&EN, May 3, page 22), and the Senate’s, by 58 senators (C&EN, June 14, page 25).
On the day the bill was introduced, a group of 142 patient associations, universities, and scientific societies sent a letter to the President in support of an expanded policy. Bush’s 2004 presidential opponent, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), also supports a policy change.
Castle vowed to push the bill hard. However, he noted that he hoped the White House would step in and change the current policy, alleviating the need for the bill.