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NIH Stem Cell Task Force Examines Barriers to Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and Other Stem Cell Research-related News

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President Bush's August 9, 2001, executive order restricting human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research to the hESC lines that had been developed until the date of that ruling continues to be a source of controversy and concern in the biomedical research community. Researchers are concerned that the president's ruling has slowed stem cell research and may cause researchers to relocate to other countries or to states within the United States that have laws that allow and support hESC research.

Washington Fax reported on September 20 that Alan Spiegel, member of the newly formed NIH Stem Cell Task Force and director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, told his institute's advisory committee on September 18 that the task force would attempt to find ways to resolve challenges and lower barriers to conducting research with hESCs. “The mission of the committee is to evaluate barriers to stem cell research,” Spiegel said, “and to develop options for [NIH Director Elias A.] Zerhouni and the institute directors to most effectively pursue stem cell research.” National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders Director James Battey chairs the 14-member group, composed of NIH intramural scientists and NIH scientific administrators from various institutes and centers. Battey said that he envisioned the task force operating similarly to the Trans-NIH Mouse Initiative, which was formed in March 1998 to develop priorities for mouse genomics and genetics resources.

One of the first issues that the group may tackle is the training of scientists in hESC research, according to Spiegel. “Training of individuals becomes really an extraordinarily important issue in terms of moving this field forward,” he asserted. Although all of the core task force members are NIH employees, the group will enlist members of the external scientific community to provide expertise and advice on key …

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