Newswise — A new report on embryonic stem cell research from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) reviews key issues likely to be debated in the coming months as Congress and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) determine how the research will move forward.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order lifting the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on March 9, and asked the NIH to revise its existing guidelines within 120 days. While these steps alone will undoubtedly expand research significantly, choices made in Congress and at the NIH could promote further research activity, or change its direction.
According to the report, Congress could codify the President's action — or countermand it — so that it could not be as readily altered by future administrations. Legislators also could overturn existing laws so that federal funding can be used not only to study any available stem cell lines, but also to create new ones. Likewise, the NIH has substantial leeway in deciding whether to support research that uses so-called "custom-made" embryos created exclusively for research, or derived through the techniques of therapeutic cloning, or to limit its support to embryos created at in-vitro fertilization clinics.
This paper describes pending legislation and existing guidelines designed to promote responsible research practices in the field of embryonic stem cell research, while explaining the decisions still to be made at the federal level.
The GW/SPHHS report -- "Embryonic Stem Cell Research: What are the Next Steps?" can be downloaded at: http://www.gwumc.edu/sphhs/about/rapidresponse/index.cfm.