NIH Stem Cell Research Guidelines – Urgent Response Needed

This is a call for your help to support human embryonic and parthenote stem cell research. The deadline for action is Tuesday May 26.

Here’s a link to the most up to date version of the draft guidelines: 2009 Draft Guidelines on Human Stem Cell Research

A. The Problem:

On March 9, 2009 President Obama charged the National Institutes of Health, the primary funding agency for federally funded biomedical research, to draft a new set of ethical guidelines for embryonic stem cell research by July 2009. The President did not mean for the new guidelines to overturn the Dickey Amendment to the NIH budget which bans federal funding for the derivation of stem cell lines, but to expand the numbers and types of stem cells available for federal funding after they are derived.

The NIH has issued its draft guidelines and asks for public comment no later than Tuesday May 26, 2009. The NIH draft guidelines are a serious set-back to human embryonic stem cell research and continue the ban on parthenote stem cell research. The draft guidelines are so restrictive that many of the stem cell lines eligible for funding under President Bush would no longer be eligible.

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Clock Gene in Stem Cells Shows Evidence of Importance of Circadian Rhythms


Cell Multiplication Controlled by a Surprising set of Genes

(download PDF) (Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics)

Stem cell researcher Dr. Ann Kiessling announced today the discovery of cell characteristics that may explain important differences between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Scientists have for years been frustrated in their efforts to grow the trillions of adult stem cells needed for therapies, which is why embryonic stem cells seem promising–they can multiply endlessly and also develop into any cell in the body.

Kiessling discovered that early human embryo cells express CLOCK, and other circadian genes, that other human cells growing in laboratories did not. This was a surprise. Although scientists have recently become aware that human tissues have a circadian oscillator that cycles every 24 hours, in phase with the master circadian pacemaker in the brain that responds to light and dark, early embryos seemed too small to function like a tissue.

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A conversation with Renee A. Reijo Pera: Using Embryos to Put Fertility First

The New York Times

Egg Research

As director of Stanford’s Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education, Renee A. Reijo Pera, 49, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, works at ground zero of the controversy over human embryonic stem cells. She uses human embryos to create new cells that will eventually be coaxed into becoming eggs and sperm. In other research, she has also identified one of the first genes associated with human infertility. The questions and answers below are edited from a two-hour conversation and a subsequent telephone interview.

By CLAUDIA DREIFUS | Published: December 15, 2008

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The New York Times, “A conversation with Renee A. Reijo Pera: Using Embryos to Put Fertility First”

Open Letter from the Foundation Director

Should the U.S. government support the creation of new lines of embryonic stem cells?

by Ann A Kiessling, PhD

The answer to that question is not simple. The rancorous US debate about embryonic stem cells bespeaks a healthy society with genuine concern about each and every member, the tiniest and the sickest. Everyone, on both sides of the debate, wants to do what’s right.

But what is “right?”

Should frozen embryos “left-over” in fertility clinics be “sacrificed” to create stem cells to treat heart failure, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, and birth defects?

The answer is not necessarily.

Embryonic stem cells from “left-over” frozen embryos are just one example of pluripotent stem cells (pluripotent: the potential to develop into all body tissues). Embryonic stem cells have been important model systems for research, but they will have the same tissue compatibility problems as other transplanted organs.

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The Moral Status of the Embryo

Harvard Magazine

The Moral Status of the Embryo

Is a blastocyst—an early-stage human embryo—a person? As part of the University’s efforts to encourage public dialogue about stem-cell research, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), in conjunction with Harvard Divinity School (HDS) and the Boston Theological Institute, sponsored a March 14 forum, “Religious Perspectives on Stem-Cell Research,” which centered on this fundamental question. Moderated by Philip Clayton, a visiting professor of science and religion, the forum featured four panelists representing the three Abrahamic faiths: Eric Cohen, executive director of the Tikvah fund (a foundation devoted to Jewish ideas and culture) and a consultant to the President’s Council on Bioethics; Omar Sultan Haque, a Muslim theologian currently studying at HDS and Harvard Medical School (HMS); professor John Davis of the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, an evangelical Christian theologian ordained in the Presbyterian church; and the Reverend Doctor Llewellyn Smith, B.D. ’67, of Andover Newton Theological School, a Congregational minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC). (HSCI faculty members M. William Lensch and Jerome Ritz attended as well to provide scientific input and clarification.)

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Stem Cell Wars: The Cultural and Ideological Bases

Jeffrey E. Horvitz


Why has stem cell research been singled out of many stunning advances in this, the Golden Age of biology and medicine? Why is there such a tempest in a Petri dish?

The stem cell fight is a footnote to what looks to be a lengthy period of Wars of Religion – like the 16th century – which will go on for decades. The conflict is also a manifestation of a collision of ideological themes – themes with very long histories in America.

In this, the 21st century’s Wars of Religion, there are two battle fronts. The first is being fought in the mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts of Iraq, the subways in London, and the skyscrapers of Manhattan. These are the wars between Islam and most of the world’s major religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism.

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Connecticut Legislature committed 100 million dollars to embryonic stem cell research


History was made in Connecticut this week. Nearly three dozen stem cell scientists were awarded public funds to conduct embryonic stem cell research. This puts Connecticut in a leadership position in stem cell research in the U.S.

In 2005, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell and the Connecticut Legislature committed 100 million dollars to embryonic stem cell research over a ten year period.

In response, Connecticut scientists were able to apply for funds to support stem cell research not currently fundable by federal dollars.

Senator Don Williams, President Pro Tem of the Connecticut Senate, appointed me to the Connecticut Stem Cell Advisory Committee in June, 2006. The task before this committee was to steer the process of launching Connecticut’s stem cell research efforts.

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