In the Summer 2007 issue of NIH MedlinePlus magazine, coming out this week, National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Elias Zerhouni, MD renewed his call for federal support of "all avenues of research" for adult and embryonic stem-cell therapies. Describing the need for broader pursuit of embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR), Dr. Zerhouni said "We must continue the research at all levels, or there will be no progress."
Last March, Dr. Zerhouni told a US Senate committee that "American science will be better served—and the nation will be better served—if we let our scientists have access to more cell lines that they can study with the different methods that have emerged since 2001." Since August 2001, federal funding for ESCR has been limited to the stem-cell lines in existence at the time. Researchers have questioned both the substandard quality and availability of those lines, which represent only five percent of all existing lines, as well as the practical problems research institutions face in separating funded from non-funded ESCR facilities.
The AAN supports legislation (S.5) to expand the range of embryonic stem-cell lines eligible for government funding, and to promote high standards of scientific and ethical scrutiny for ESCR. Congress has yet to attempt an override of President Bush's June 2007 veto of the measure. Senate legislation that would change the August 2001 limit on stem-cell lines (in addition to increasing NIH funding) to June 2007 is also endorsed by the Academy.