A May 14 letter by National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Elias Zerhouni responding to a call by members of Congress for President Bush to expand funding for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research has some advocates seeing a glimmer of hope for a loosening of federal rules on such research, as well as the possibility of federal funding. But others are decidedly less optimistic.

“From a purely scientific perspective, more cell lines may well speed some areas of hESC research,” Zerhouni wrote in the letter. But he restated the administration's position that “taxpayer funds should not 'sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life.'”

Representatives Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and 204 other members of Congress wrote the president April 28, asking him to expand his policy to fund research on the estimated 400,000 surplus frozen embryos...

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