Congress Targets Expanded Federal Policy | January 15, 2007 Issue - Vol. 85 Issue 3 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 3 | p. 26
Issue Date: January 15, 2007

Cover Stories: Taming Stem Cells

Congress Targets Expanded Federal Policy

Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Stem Cells

On Aug. 9, 2001, President George W. Bush announced a federal policy governing human embryonic stem cell research in the U.S. The policy has now become a barrier to the field.

The policy allows for federal funds to be used to support human embryonic stem cell research but limits stem cell lines that qualify for funding to those in existence at the time of the President's announcement. Of the 78 lines initially allowed by the policy, some were found to be duplicative and others did not replicate properly. Today, only 19 of these lines are viable and available for study.

Joining researchers in their call for an expanded federal policy is the public, which hopes more work in this area will lead to cures for diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's. A recent survey by the Civil Society Institute finds that of the more than 1,000 people polled, 66% support embryonic stem cell research, a record high.

This growing public support has not gone unnoticed by Congress. In the 109th Congress, which ended in December, a bill to expand the number of lines available for federal funds made its way through both the House of Representatives and the Senate before ultimately being vetoed by the President (C&EN, July 24, 2006, page 10). The House attempted to override the veto, which was the first by Bush since he took office, but failed to get the necessary votes.

Undaunted, the Democratic leadership that now controls Congress has pledged to make expanding the stem cell policy a priority. In fact, legislation has been introduced in both houses to do just that, and a vote has been scheduled in the House.

Even with the continued congressional commitment, the fate of policy expanding legislation is unclear. One factor that may complicate moving such legislation forward is the recent report of amniotic fluid stem cells, which appear to have similar traits to embryonic stem cells. But the ultimate block will likely continue to be the President, who remains firm on his position that the current policy is adequate.

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