Stem Cell Research: Federal Research Funding and Oversight [Updated April 18, 2007]   [open pdf - 183KB]

"Embryonic stem cells have the ability to develop into virtually any cell in the body, and they may have the potential to treat medical conditions such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease. In August 2001, President Bush announced that for the first time, federal funds would be used to support research on human embryonic stem cells, but funding would be limited to 'existing stem cell lines.' NIH [National Institutes of Health] has established a registry of 78 human embryonic stem cell lines that are eligible for use in federally funded research, but only 21 cell lines are currently available. Scientists are concerned about the quality and longevity of these 21 stem cell lines. NIH Director Elias Zerhouni stated before a Senate subcommittee in March 2007 that research advancement requires access to new human embryonic stem cell lines. Some have argued that adult stem cells (from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood) should be pursued instead of embryonic stem cells because they believe the derivation of stem cells from embryos is ethically unacceptable. The NIH Director and many other scientists believe adult stem cells should not be the sole target of research because of important scientific and technical limitations. Reports issued by NIH and the Institute of Medicine state that both embryonic and adult stem cell research should be pursued. Some scientists are exploring the possibility of obtaining human embryonic stem cells that bypass the destruction of living human embryos. The President's Council on Bioethics cited four potential alternative sources of human embryonic stem cells in a May 2005 paper. A number of pro-life advocates support stem cell research; those opposed are concerned that stem cell isolation requires embryo destruction."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL33540
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