Stem Cell

The discovery, made by Dr. James A. Thomson, a biologist at the
University of Wisconsin, Madison, offers great promise for new ways of
treating disease. ES cells, which are derived from four-day-old embryos, can
theoretically differentiate into virtually any type of human cell, from blood
cells to skin cells. Scientists hope to find ways of using these cells to repair
damaged tissue. About stem cell transplantation In the bone marrow, there is
approximately 1 stem cell in every 100,000 blood cells. The bone marrow in
the breast bone, skull, hips, ribs, and spine contains the stem cells. In the
blood stream, the number of stem cells is about 1/100 of that in the bone
marrow. Transplantation of these stem cells from the blood stream is
sometimes used in addition to, or instead of, traditional bone marrow
transplantation. The range of diseases for which bone marrow/stem cell
transplantation can be considered has increased greatly and includes the
The problem that surrounds all this is that Dr. Thomson’s breakthrough
work was not eligible for funding from NIH, the federal government’s primary
sponsor of biomedical research, and the sponsor of some of his other research
projects. Instead, he set up a separate lab to work on human ES cells
supported by private funding from the Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., and
the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Because of the great potential
promised by Dr. Thomson’s discovery, NIH sought legal counsel from the
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the question of whether
or not the ban applies to ES cell research. In January 1999, HHS concluded
that public funds could be used for research on ES cells as long as they were
not used for the derivation of the cells, the process that results in the
destruction of an embryo. NIH thus began drafting guidelines governing
funding for ES cell studies. The work was ineligible for public funding…

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