Stem Cell Rules Draw Torrent of Comments

The U.S. National Institutes of Health officials are busy sorting thousands of comments on the agency's proposed stem cell guidelines that poured in up to the deadline of 11 p.m. on 26 May. Last week, acting NIH Director Raynard Kington said the agency had already received 20,000 submissions; officials said today that the final number will likely be considerably higher.

Stem cell advocates have been expressing serious worry that ethical requirements spelled out in the draft guidelines—in particular, informed consent procedures for embryo donors—will rule out the use of many existing human embryonic stem cell lines, including the 21 lines approved under the Bush Administration.

In its comment on the draft policy, the the International Society for Stem Cell Research asks NIH to define some "core principles" covering what is ethically acceptable rather than set explicit rules that might exclude "lines that have been in routine use for the past ten years." Others have called for NIH to "grandfather" in the Bush-approved lines. NIH must issue its final policy by 7 July.