[JURIST] The National Institute of Health (NIH) [official website] issued proposed guidelines [text] for funding human embryonic stem cell [NIH backgrounder; JURIST news archive] research Friday, which limits funding to embryos that were created to be used in fertility clinics but were no longer needed and would have been discarded. Additionally, the donor must have consented to giving the embryos for research purposes. The guidelines were issued in accordance with the executive order [text; JURIST report] issued by US President Barack Obama [official website] in March, which removed the Bush administration's restrictions on federal funding for research on stem cells. The guidelines also state that stem cells cannot be used for certain research techniques involving animals and cannot be obtained from somatic cell nuclear transfer, or cloning, and from embryos specifically created for research. According to the Acting Director of the NIH, Dr. Raynard Kington [official profile], there may be up to 700 stem cell lines that could be researched [CNN report] compared to about 88 allowed under the previous regulations.
The new guidelines reverse previous rules that limited government funding to only stem cell lines that were in existence as of August 2001. Despite pressure from the scientific community the previous administration refused similar changes to funding guidelines. In 2007, then-president George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 [S5 materials], which was intended to relax funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The administration rejected the bill saying it would compel taxpayers to support the destruction of human embryos. In 2006, Bush vetoed a previous version [JURIST report] of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Senate to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, saying he would not provide federal funding for stem cell research because many consider the destruction of embryos to be murder.