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AAAS Urges Immediate Public Release of Sources of Embryonic Stem Cell Lines; Calls for Assessing Adequacy of Existing Cell Lines to Advance Research
In a statement released on 17 August 2001, AAAS recommended that the Bush Administration publicly disclose the sources of the existing embryonic stem cell lines that constitute the centerpiece of the Presidents stem cell policy. The Association noted that only by such disclosure can scientists assess the potential value of the cells for research and potential medical advances.
AAAS said it was pleased that the President has decided to endorse federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, because embryonic stem cell research may have the potential to offer advanced medical solutions for serious diseases that cause terrible suffering.
The statement explained, however, that information about the origin of these stem cells would be essential in determining their value in research as well as the intellectual property and financial restrictions that might affect federally funded scientists access to the stem cell lines. The statement also noted the importance of determining whether the cell lines have been derived in a manner that would meet or exceed the ethical standards that the American public expects will be associated with such research.
"How the Administration's policy is implemented will be the real test of whether the approach the President has chosen -- limiting researchers with federal funding to the use of existing stem cell lines -- will be sufficient to achieve the advances in science necessary to realize promising new treatments and cures for disease," the statement said in part. "AAAS believes that several key matters will need to be resolved before the promise of the new policy can be fairly assessed."
According to AAAS, the Presidents plan to establish a new Council on
Bioethics to recommend guidelines and standards for stem cell research and other
biomedical advances could be important in fostering a national dialogue on advances
in biomedical research. However, several issues should be addressed regarding
membership of the Council, the scope of its mandate, and how it would conduct
its business. In order to gauge accurately the potential benefits of the Administrations
policy, AAAS recommended that in the months ahead, the scientific community
report to the American public and to our government officials
the resources available -- both the
cell lines and funding -- will be adequate to realize the full benefits we believe this research can yield.
Copies of the 1999 AAAS stem cell report are available online at http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/sfrl/projects/stem/main.htm and for more information on stem cell research, please visit http://www.aaas.org/spp/cstc/issues/stemcells.htm.
Founded in 1848, AAAS is the world's largest federation of scientists
with more than 138,000 individual members and 273 affiliated societies. The
Association publishes the weekly, peer-reviewed journal Science.
-- Nisha Narayanan