On Wednesday, the National Institute of Health (NIH) released its Guidelines for Research Using Human Pluripotent Stem Cells.
which go into effect today, end the moratorium on federal funding for stem cells obtained from human embryo or fetal tissue. NIH published an earlier draft for public input at the end of last year (see the December 3, 1999 Scout Report
), and the final Guidelines
begins with an attempt to address some of the various criticisms that different advocacy groups and individuals have raised. Nonetheless, the decision to allow federal funding for such research has predictably unleashed a storm of controversy. Detractors (among them, most right-to-life groups) maintain that the use of human embryonic stem cells is unethical and unnecessary, arguing that other avenues of research (adult stem cells, gene therapy, etc.) should prove just as fruitful. On the other hand, proponents of the Guidelines
(including many patient advocacy groups) feel that the restrictions on funding delineated by NIH will ensure that stem cell research be conducted ethically, and that stem cells obtained from embryonic and fetal tissue hold an unparalleled potential. Scientists hope that research on human pluripotent stem cells will lead to methods for growing organs and tissues, developing drugs, and better understanding diseases and conditions.