When the Big O lifted the curtain on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in March, scientists applauded the move as a long-overdue boost for the promising field.
Now, these same scientists worry his plan may have the unintended effect of dampening progress by forcing researchers to comply with ethical standards that were enacted after their research began.
“We’re very concerned,” Amy Rick, chief executive of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research told the Washington Post. “If they don’t change this, very little current research would be eligible. It’s a huge issue.”
Ongoing stem cell research has already passed ethical scrutiny, but when Obama lifted the ban, he charged the NIH to develop new guidelines governing the field. Those guidelines would be difficult to meet in retrospect.
This is essentially moving the goal post,” the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s George Daley told the Post.
For example, the new NIH guidelines require that couples sign documents stating that they agree to donate their embryos for research and that they have been informed about other options like donating the embryos to other couples instead.
Many clinics did just this, but their consent forms did not necessarily specify as such.
No one knows how many stem cell lines would be affected by retrospective enforcement of the NIH guidelines, but experts believe most would not pass muster.
The NIH has a chance to clean up the mess when it releases the final version of its guidelines on or before July 7.
“We know issues like this have been raised, and we will take them into consideration,” Raynard Kington, the NIH’s acting director told the Post. “The intent of the president was to expand opportunities and research in this area.”