Scientists can start using taxpayer dollars to do research with 13 batches of embryonic stem cells. And the government says dozens more cell lines should be available soon.
President Barack Obama lifted eight years of restrictions on the master cells last spring. But new projects were on hold until the National Institutes of Health determined which of hundreds of existing stem cell lines were ethically appropriate to use. Thirteen stem cell lines -- created by Children's Hospital Boston and Rockefeller University -- are first on that list.
The head of the National Institutes of Health says that's just a "down payment." He says another 96 embryonic stem cell lines are undergoing NIH review, and 20 or more could get a decision by Friday.
The Bush administration had limited taxpayer-funded research to about 21 stem cell lines -- the ones that were already in existence as of August 2001. Scientists say newer batches were created in ways that made them far better candidates for successful research.
Culling the embryonic stem cells destroys an embryo that is days old -- and that's why many are strongly opposed on moral grounds. But once they're created, the cells can propagate indefinitely in lab dishes.