The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced that 13 additional human embryonic stem cell lines have been approved for federal funding and added to its Stem Cell Registry.
The total number of federally funded stem cell lines derived from killing human embryos is now at 64, with another 100 lines pending approval for federal funding.
Four of the new approved stem cell lines come from the WiCell Research Institute of Madison, Wisconsin. They had been approved for funding under the George W. Bush administration.
NIH Director Francis S. Collins said the action should provide “welcome reassurance” to researchers working on the older stem cell lines.
“Scientists can continue their studies without interruption, and we can all be assured that valuable work will not be lost," he commented in an NIH statement Wednesday.
In a 2001 executive order, President Bush had approved federal funding for some embryonic stem cell lines, but he barred funding for any stem cell lines created after the issuance of his order.
In March 2009 President Barack Obama removed the funding restrictions with an executive order of his own.
His order was criticized by ten members of the President’s Council on Bioethics, who characterized it as “a step backward” from a reconciliation of “the needs of research and the moral concerns of many Americans.”
In a March 25, 2009 statement they urged alternative sources of stem cells which do not require destroying human embryos.
Fr. Thomas Berg of the Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person, has noted that the Catholic Church “enthusiastically” supports most forms of stem cell research.
“We cannot, however, support research which involves the creation and destruction of human embryos,” he explained.