Starting lines: Before stem cells get used in therapy, there's the science of making them

By Scott LaFee
San Diego Union-Tribune
February 9, 2005

Before stem cell therapies ever cure anything, there will first need to be a lot more stem cells.

Sometimes lost in the blue-sky promise of stem cell treatments for everything from heart disease to spinal cord injuries is the disconcerting fact that, at the moment, there just aren't that many viable cell lines for study and use - not if you're a researcher who depends, at least in part, upon federal funding, a description that pretty much includes all interested scientists and laboratories.

When President Bush restricted stem cell research in 2001, spurred by opposition to using human embryos as source material, he declared that the number of pre-existing cell lines was adequate to meet the nation's research needs.

That number was 78, and it proved to be an illusion. Almost half of the cell lines identified by the Bush administration were not actually available to U.S. scientists. Other lines died or turned out to be duplicates. According to the National Institutes of Health embryonic stem cell registry, there are just 22 lines currently eligible for federal funding.

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