Draft Guidelines on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Released

The Obama administration released draft guidelines on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research on Friday.

Under the proposed guidelines issued by the National Institute of Health, funding will be allowed for research using human embryonic stem cells derived from fertility clinic embryos that would otherwise be thrown away.

NIH, a part of the Health and Human Services Department, would also allow taxpayer money to go toward research on adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.

However, NIH said it would not fund research using human embryonic stem cells culled from other sources, including somatic cell nuclear transfer, also known as cloning; parthenogenesis, a process in which embryonic development of eggs are activated artificially without fertilization by a sperm; and fertility clinic embryos created by in vitro fertilization for research purposes.

NIH issued the draft guidelines in response to an executive order by President Barack Obama last month that lifted the ban on federal funding of stem cells lines created after Aug. 9, 2001. The move by Obama repealed an order by former president George W. Bush that restricted federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to the existing 60 cell lines.

The limit under the new guidelines will disappoint many scientists who were hoping that the guidelines would allow federal funding for research using stem cells culled from embryos created for research purposes or from cloned embryos.

"Some groups and scientists have wanted the administration to go further," said Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to The Associated Press. "But we are happy to have this progress after such a long period of limited opportunities to pursue this very important line of research."

Despite the so-called limits of the proposed NIH guidelines, pro-life groups remain strongly opposed to the idea of research using embryos altogether.

"The Obama Administration today slides further down the slippery slope of exploiting non-consenting members of the human species -human embryos," the National Right to Life Committee said in a written statement. "This seeming restraint is part of an incremental strategy intended to desensitize the public to the concept of killing human embryos for research purposes."

"We believe that today's action may be part of a 'bait-and-switch' strategy, under which Democratic leaders in Congress will suddenly bring up new legislation that they will claim codifies today's NIH action, but which will in fact authorize further expansions involving the deliberate creation of human embryos for use in research, by human cloning and other methods," the pro-life group added.

The guidelines are expected to be published in the Federal Register by April 24, opening up a 30-day period for public comments. The NIH is expected to issue final guidelines by July 7.