TACHIBANA ET AL/CELLLast month, scientists created human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) via nuclear transfer, or cloning—a breakthrough that will bring renewed interest in using embryonic stem cells to treat disease. But due to regulations of key US funding bodies, which restrict the use of human embryos in research, the work will be off limits to many labs, reported Nature.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds most of the work on stem cells in the United States, does not allow its researchers to use cells taken from embryos that were created solely for research. That rules out the stem cells produced by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University and colleagues, whose method involved creating an embryo by transferring the nucleus of a donor cell to an unfertilized egg cell in which the nucleus has been removed.
Researchers funded by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will also be excluded from studying the cells because Mitalipov’s team paid donors up to $7,000 for each egg they used in the experiments, and CIRM does not allow its researchers to use cell lines produced using eggs from paid donors.
George Daley of Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts told Nature that the NIH’s rule is “a frustrating limitation that will preclude federal dollars being used to ask many important questions”—such as how the new cell lines compare with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), created by genetically reprogramming adult cells to an embryonic state. Daley added, “Most labs will take the path of least resistance and continue working with iPS cells unless someone shows that there is a clear and compelling reason to change course.”
Meanwhile, CIRM is currently reviewing its regulations regarding the research it supports, Nature reported—and it could relax its rules against using cell lines created with eggs from paid donors, according to Geoffrey Lomax, senior officer to the standards working group at CIRM.