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Oct. 2, 2003
The Federal Door Opens Wider to Embryonic Stem Cell Research 
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, headed by former Governor of Wisconsin, Secretary Tommy Thompson, is moving forward with embryonic stem cell research, using the stem cell lines approved by President Bush in August of 2001.

At the time President Bush announced his intention to allow research on stem cells taken from embryos who had already been killed, we and many others pointed out that, by leaving the door to embryonic stem cell research open a crack, he was essentially giving the green light to a future in which the door would eventually be wide open.

On September 29, 2003 the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a branch of the National Institutes of Health, issued a press release announcing that it has awarded more than $6.3 million in grants over three years to three Exploratory Centers for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research.

"By awarding the center grants, NIGMS hopes to establish human embryonic stem cells as a unique model system to help researchers understand the extraordinary complexities of human biology," states the release. "NIGMS recognizes a critical need to increase the scientific workforce in this important area of 21st century biomedical research," said Judith H. Greenberg, Ph.D., acting director of NIGMS.

The three new center awards will go to the University of Washington, Seattle/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center ($753,000) for the first year to improve methods to culture, maintain, manipulate, differentiate and compare the 12 federally approved human embryonic stem cell lines; the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor ($778,000) for the first year to apply knowledge and expertise in cell biology, developmental genetics and tissue biology to the study of human embryonic stem cells; and WiCell Research Institute in Madison, Wisconsin ($669,000) for the first year of funding to create a central core facility to provide cell tissue culture support, including media preparation, and routine chromosomal analysis of cultured stem cells.

Yes, the door is certainly open more than a crack, and foot-dragging by the Republican leadership in Congress has resulted in stalled attempts to pass legislation prohibiting all research that requires the killing of human embryos.

California to be the "Hub" of U.S. Stem Cell Research 
The San Diego Union-Tribune (9/25/03) reported in a story by staff writer Terri Somers that new laws establishing a registry of embryos donated for research have been signed and the California Department of Health Services has been directed to establish guidelines for scientists. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, and supported by the state’s biotechnology industry and patient advocate groups, builds on a law signed a year ago by Gov. Gray Davis, establishing California as a state that supports all types of stem-cell research. Parents who have engendered children through in-vitro fertilization will be informed that they can anonymously "donate" their embryonic babies for scientific experiments. Private and state-government funding will support the research, in lieu of, [for the time being], federal funds.

Nancy Reagan an Important Advocate of Embryonic Stem Cell Research 
Even though adult stem cell research is proving to be successful and embryonic stem cell research has yielded only disappointment, Nancy Reagan has become "one of the most important sub rosa advocates" of the latter. (AARP, Sept./Oct. 2003)

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