FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 14, 2004
Contact: HHS Press Office
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
“Stem cell research is still at
an early, uncertain stage, but the hope it offers is amazing:
infinitely adaptable human cells to replace damaged or defective
tissue and treat a wide variety of diseases. Yet the ethics of
medicine are not infinitely adaptable. There is at least one bright
line: We do not end some lives for the medical benefit of others.
For me, this is a matter of conviction: a belief that life,
including early life, is biologically human, genetically distinct
and valuable.” -- President George W. Bush; August 12,
The President’s Decision is Based on Ethical
The President is committed to pursuing stem cell research
without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing
taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further
destruction of human embryos.
Decision Based on Ethics: “The
President’s policy rests on this significant principle -- no
taxpayer funding for embryo destruction -- not an assumption
regarding the number of stem cell lines. Even as the science
develops, this principle does not change,” as Secretary
Thompson said at the time of the 2001 decision, “neither
unexpected scientific breakthroughs nor unanticipated research
problems would cause the President to reverse this
Bipartisan Support for Ethical Treatment of Human
Embryos: The principle that human embryos merit respect as
a form of human life -- and that the Federal government should not
fund their destruction -- has been adopted by Congress on a
bipartisan basis for a number of years. Annually, since 1996,
Congress has adopted legislative language stating that HHS funds
may not be used in research involving the destruction of human
Broad Support Internationally: This principle is
also shared by a number of other countries. In fact, some European
countries including, Germany, Austria, and Ireland, ban altogether
the destruction of human embryos to create stem cell lines.
The President Supports Exploring the Promise of Stem Cell
President Bush understands the pain of individuals and their
families suffering through the illness of a loved one. The
President remains committed to fully exploring the promise and
potential of stem cell research without violating ethical principles
and while maintaining respect for all human life. The Bush
Administration was the first to provide federal funding for
embryonic stem cell research. In keeping with this commitment, the
Provided FY 2003 funding of $24.8 million for human embryonic stem
cell research, an increase of 132 percent from FY 2002; in FY 2003
the Administration has strongly supported promising research using
adult stem cells by providing $190.7 million for human
non-embryonic stem cells (adult stem cells, including those from
cord blood, placenta, and bone marrow).
Clarification of current NIH rules to enable researchers to
participate in privately-funded stem cell research without
compromising their ability to receive NIH funding for separate
NIH currently funds three Exploratory Centers of Excellence to
promote basic research on embryonic stem cells.
NIH is also engaged in a project on its Bethesda campus to
comprehensively analyze the properties of the stem cell lines that
are eligible for federal funding, which will provide researchers
with valuable information.
NIH developed five training courses to help American and foreign
scientists acquire needed skills and techniques to culture human
embryonic stem cell lines.
NIH has funded an adult stem cell bank which provides mesenchymal
stem cells to the research community. This type of adult stem cell
is able to proliferate, which lends itself to the degree of
expansion necessary for wide distribution; they have also been
shown to have the capacity to differentiate into specialized cells.
It is worth noting that Federal funds are available for the
derivation of adult stem cells.
New Steps to Further Accelerate Stem Cell Research
In keeping with the President’s commitment, the
Administration is announcing:
With the goal of exploiting new discoveries in basic embryonic
and adult stem cell biology, NIH will also establish Centers of
Excellence in Translational Stem Cell Research, where stem cell
researchers will be working side by side with clinical
researchers, transplant surgeons, and other medical researchers
who are experts in diseases such diabetes, Parkinson’s
disease and heart disease and other conditions that may benefit
from this research.
NIH will soon establish a new National Embryonic Stem Cell Bank,
that will consolidate some of the human embryonic cell lines
eligible for funding in one location, reduce the costs that
researchers have to pay for the cells, and maintain uniform
quality control over the cells. Research conducted at the Bank
will provide important insights about which cells might be most
useful for a specific basic or translational research activity
by exploring the functional diversity of the cell lines.
The State of Embryonic Stem Cell Science
Under President Bush’s policy, this science is advancing
faster than it ever has in the past. As of February 2004, more
than 400 shipments of eligible stem cell lines had
been sent to researchers. Today, there are more than 3500
additional shipments are maintained by the owners and available to
Number of Lines Available for Federal Funding
78 derivations of human embryonic stem cells meet the criteria
established by the President and listed on the NIH Registry,
although since the August 2001 announcement 16 of these derivations
failed to grow into lines that would be usable for research.
With assistance from NIH, the owners of 19 of the lines agreed to
make their lines available for use by researchers in the U.S. and
abroad. Four other derivations are being developed into lines
today; two of them will be available in the near future for broad
distribution, while two others are still under development. Still
others are being preserved by their owners until the science
develops further. No other country in the world has made as many
stem cell lines widely available.
Because stem cell lines divide continuously in culture, these lines
can be used by hundreds of individual researchers. One line alone
has already resulted in 136 shipments to researchers.
These lines are being employed to study many unanswered questions
that must be answered before the cells can be used in human
therapies. For example, determined cell culture conditions that
allowed one line to differentiate into neurons similar to the
dopamine-producing neurons that degenerate in Parkinson=s Disease.
This advance is the first step towards generating neurons that may
be useful in treating this disorder. Other scientists used an
eligible line to form 3-dimensional structures with characteristics
of developing liver tissue, cartilage, nerve, or blood vessels.
This technique may permit scientists to generate tissue for use in
skin grafts, wound treatment, or organ transplantation.
Private and State Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research is
The President’s policy places no obstacles in the path of
private or state funding for stem cell research – researchers
are receiving support from both sources, in addition to support
from the Federal Government.
Based on 2002 data, one study reports that private sector research and development
in stem cells was being conducted by approximately 1000 scientists in over
30 firms. Aggregate spending was estimated at $208 million.1 Geron Corporation
alone reported that it spent more than $70 million on stem cell research by
In the Stem Cell Business News Guide to Stem Cell Companies
(Feb 2003), 61 U.S. and international companies are listed as
pursuing some form of research or therapeutic product development
involving stem cells. For example, Geron Corp. has announced plans
to seek FDA approval to pursue human trials.
Some states ban the destruction of human embryonic stem cells for
research. Some permit it, but do not fund it (consistent with
federal policy). And still other states provide funding.
As with most medical research, the effort to explore the promise of
this science and to develop treatments and cures will require the
combined efforts of both the public and private sector.
1. Lysaght, J.J., and Hazlehurst, A.L., Private Sector Development of Stem Technology and Therapeutic Cloning," Tissue Engineering 9(3): 555-561 (2003).
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last Revised: August 18, 2004