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Nature America, Inc.




Controversy over how to fund and regulate stem cell research continues in the US and is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced that it is prepared to fund stem cell research under yet-to-be-specified guidelines. The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) issued a report on stem cells in mid-September, recommending that Congress change the law to permit the derivation and use of stem cells from embryos no longer needed for reproduction purposes that are stored at in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. The NBAC also recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) establish a new National Stem Cell Oversight and Review Panel to ensure that all federally funded stem cell research meets ethical standards. So far, the outgoing NIH director Harold Varmus has indicated that NIH will stick with its previous position and develop its own research guidelines. President Clinton seems to be in accord with Varmus, as is the American Association for the Advancement of Science. American politics surrounding embryo research, and any research relating to abortion, are complex and divisive. We believe it is time for a congressional debate on the funding, ethics and federal oversight of stem cell research. The NBAC report provides a useful opportunity for Congress to take this research seriously.

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