Harvard-Created Embryonic Stem Cells Now Available for Other Researchers

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 3, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Harvard-Created Embryonic Stem Cells Now Available for Other Researchers

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 3, 2004

Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) — Shortly after announcing a $100 million initiative to create a new stem cell research laboratory that would increase research on embryonic stem cells, Harvard researchers have announced that they have created 17 embryonic stem cell lines that they are willing to allow other scientists to use.

The stem cells, taken from human embryos that were destroyed, were created without government funds because of a moratorium on federal funding of new embryonic stem cell research put in place by President Bush in August 2001.

Dr. Douglas Melton, a Harvard researcher, created the stem cell lines in his lab for research on diabetes and has made them publicly available. Both Melton’s children have the disease.

The research, detailed in a paper entitled "Derivation of Embryonic Stem Cell Lines from Human Blastocysts," was published today in the New England Journal of Medicine online version.

"What we have done is to make use of previously frozen human fertilized eggs that otherwise were going to be discarded," Melton told reporters in a telephone briefing.

According to the paper, the lines were created with excess fertilized eggs donated from IVF clinics.

But pro-life groups say the research potential doesn’t justify the destruction of human life. They point to the plethora of sources for adult stem cells that have already proven successful in research and clinical trials.

Dr. Leonard Zon, president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, says the cell lines will be more useful for scientists than the ones currently available.

The stem cell lines that qualify for limited federal funding are few in number than researchers previously thought. In addition, developing therapies for patients from the NIH stem cell lines may also prove difficult since they were made using mouse feeder cells and bovine serums.

Harvard University, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a medical research organization, put up the funding to create the embryonic stem cell lines.

Harvard University announced on Sunday that it plans to open a center to grow and destroy human embryos for research. If the center moves forward as planned, it could become the largest private-funded stem cell research project in the United States.
Privately funded efforts to study embryonic stem cells are underway at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota, and the University of California, San Francisco and Stanford University recently announced $12 million venture to create human embryonic stem cells lines.

Meanwhile, activists in California have floated a ballot proposal that would use $3 billion in tax funds to finance such research.