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Draft Stem Cell Guidelines Threaten Research

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the retroactively-applied-ethics dept.

Medicine 206

Death Metal suggests we peruse a piece up at Wired on how the Obama administration's draft guidelines for stem cell research could invalidate hundreds of cell lines. "Under the Obama administration's proposed rules for funding embryonic stem cell research, hundreds of existing cell lines could be ineligible, even those that qualified under President Bush. The guidelines were written by the National Institutes of Health and are currently in draft form and expected to be finalized in July. But in their current state, they restrict funding to stem cell lines produced according to new rules that are only now being established. Few existing cell lines will meet those requirements. 'The so-called Presidential lines aren't suitable for actual medical application,' said Patrick Taylor, deputy counsel at Children's Hospital Boston, who criticized the NIH guidelines in a paper published Thursday in Cell Stem Cell. 'But we're talking about many, many more lines. The new lines were created with extensive ethical oversight. They're at stake here.'"

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And... (4, Insightful)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968521)

And this is why I was so cynical about the election. It's the same old business as usual.

Re:And... (4, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968709)

It's the same old business as usual.

That's not true. The people in charge now are less interested in telling us who we can sleep with and more interested in telling us what kinds of foods we can eat. Yeah, the Government is still trying to micromanage our lives like an obsessed baby sitter, but hey, it's still change you can believe in ;)

Re:And... (1)

TheABomb (180342) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968967)

But you'll find the average Slashdotter much more heavily invested in Doritos and Bawls than in sex (at least, the varieties that involve other persons).

Re:And... (2, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969121)

But you'll find the average Slashdotter much more heavily invested in Doritos and Bawls than in sex (at least, the varieties that involve other persons).

I find the opposite is true. Sex is like oxygen. When you are getting enough of it, it's not a big deal.

Re:And... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969355)

The people in charge now are less interested in telling us who we can sleep with and more interested in telling us what kinds of foods we can eat. Yeah, the Government is still trying to micromanage our lives like an obsessed baby sitter, but hey, it's still change you can believe in ;)

I know this will hard for you US'ians to accept but it's a proper role for Government to regulate what you can eat when your obesity rates are driving up the cost of medicine.

Re:And... (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969533)

I know this will hard for you US'ians to accept but it's a proper role for Government to regulate what you can eat when your obesity rates are driving up the cost of medicine.

Bzzt, no, it's not a "proper role" for Government to protect me from myself. If my insurance carrier wants to penalize me for a being a fatass then all the power to them. It's none of Washington's business.

Re:And... (1)

JakartaDean (834076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970381)

Bzzt, no, it's not a "proper role" for Government to protect me from myself. If my insurance carrier wants to penalize me for a being a fatass then all the power to them. It's none of Washington's business.

I think what P was suggesting is that you can have absolute freedom to harm yourself, or socialized medicine. Choose one. Me, I'd choose the second, but by failing to choose you have effectively given up your right to criticize either.

Re:And... (3, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970605)

I think what P was suggesting is that you can have absolute freedom to harm yourself, or socialized medicine. Choose one. Me, I'd choose the second, but by failing to choose you have effectively given up your right to criticize either.

I've never wanted socialized medicine, because I fail to see how having a Government ration my health care and stick it's nose into my business is any improvement over having a private company do the same. At least the private company doesn't have well armed goons to enforce it's edicts and I can choose to do business with whichever one I'd like.

Re:And... (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970991)

Except whichever one you like means all options are the same.

Also note all those options are already getting money from the government. One agency(I'd need to look it up) gave an estimate that 60% of all healthcare in the US was paid for by the government. That does include military and the Gov employees health benefits.

Re:And... (1)

CheckpointBravo (1555487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971021)

Although I agree with you regarding any role the Goverment should play in our lives should be next to nothing, you stated "If my insurance carrier wants to penalize me for a being a fatass..." Unless you are are planning on being dead before Age 65, the US government will be your insurance carrier as Medicare/Medicaid. It's an unfortunate extension of the social security program of the New Deal.

Re:And... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971035)

Bzzt, no, it's not a "proper role" for Government to protect me from myself.

The proper role of the government is to protect you from other people and vice versa.

If the insurance company refused to pay for something that was life threatening, then in a sense they are putting your life in danger even though it was partially your fault.

Think it like this, not only is shouting "fire" in a theater is a crime when there is no fire, but also willfully not warning other people of the danger is just as bad.

If we were talking about luxuries then yeah... Not really anything the govt should do but we are talking about life and death here.

Re:And... (1)

seizurebattlerobot (265408) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969631)

I know this will hard for you US'ians to accept but it's a proper role for Government to regulate what you can eat when your obesity rates are driving up the cost of medicine.

Yes, you're right. The government should not allow its property to do anything dangerous. After all, that might drive up the cost of medicine.

Let's ban fatty foods, soft drinks, alcohol, driving, boating, motorcycling, sky diving, marathon running, and playing music too loud. What's that, random special interest group? You're experiencing censorship envy [ucla.edu] ? Ok, we'll ban computer monitors, too, since they cause eye strain. Anyone else need anything banned?

Re:And... (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970445)

We really ought to ban banning. Down with negativism!

Re:And... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969833)

I know this will hard for you US'ians to accept but it's a proper role for Government to regulate what you can eat when your obesity rates are driving up the cost of medicine.

The overwhelmingly sedentary nature of most office jobs is a prime contributor to obesity, why not regulate businesses?

Patents drive up the cost of medicine, why not do away with those?

Why should I have to "be regulated" (read: pay more via taxes) if I have to eat 5 meals a day to stay above 150lbs just because you might gain 20lbs just by looking in the window of a cake shop?

Re:And... (2, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969883)

This will be even harder for you foreigners who don't know the proper term for American and use USian out of complete and total ignorance, but the role of the government is what the people allow it to be. Currently, the constitution and the bastardization of it is the limits for the federal government. The federal government has no power to regulate anything concerning fat nor does it have the power over the cost of medicine.

We are not subjects of the crown here in America. We are not the property of our elected leaders and we aren't subject to the whims of congress outside the established constitutional provisions in which what you eat and medical costs aren't involved.

Re:And... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969797)

I don't ever remember the government attempting to say who you could sleep with, they just didn't want some people to get married. That's a long ways of difference.

Re:And... (3, Informative)

mazarin5 (309432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970373)

I don't ever remember the government attempting to say who you could sleep with,

Then you must be younger than 6.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodomy_laws_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

Re:And... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27970585)

Well they still keep telling me I can't sleep with those pretty High School girls..

Aaarrgghhh.... (1)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969981)

The people in charge now are less interested in telling us who we can sleep with

Please show me one quote from the previous President telling anyone who they can sleep with. Why is this moderated "Insightful"?

I am no fan of overreaching government (yeah, I am one of those libertarian whackos), but shouldn't /. mods maintain a modicum of neutrality and ability to think critically about what they moderate?

Re:And... (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969143)

Well of course no matter who you elected it was by and large going to be business as usual (yes, Ron Paulians, even if that long shot had occured).

But what I'm not seeing is how this is actually the same. I RTFA (gasp) and it seems the issue is that the new rules include informed consent requirements for egg donors that the old lines, despite being collected under informed consent standards of their own, don't meet the letter of the new rules, which are applied retroactively. The new rules were drafted by the NIH, who said that they estimated the new rules would make 700 old lines available for research that weren't before. A number of researchers are saying that they don't think that's the case and many of the old lines would not meet the new standard despite being collected ethically.

So which seems more likely:
- NIH really intended to make all those old lines available, but botched the legalese, which can be fixed by loosening the retroactive requirements while keeping the new requirements for new lines or various other changes.
- NIH was lying and is trying to quash stem cell research "just like Bush, business as usual" by disqualifying these old lines, while simultaneously allowing arbitrarily many new lines to be created using standards that are qualitatively if not technically nearly identical to the old ones.

The second just doesn't make much sense to me. Why bother lying when the practical effect would be obvious and nobody can really do anything about it anyway, why even display the draft rules rather than just put them into effect, why allow new stem cell collection under standards nearly identical to the old if the goal is to quash it entirely? Why's Obama trying to quash stem cell research anyway? Pressure from the religious right? I don't get it.

Re:And... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969589)

There's a third option:
- Go around NIH's new requirements by simply going back to the donating couple and asking them if they'd like to sign a new contract.

Given what I've seen of the demographics of this issue, I'm willing to bet you'd free up 350 lines or more, out of the 700 available.

Re:And... (2, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970451)

There's a third option:
- Go around NIH's new requirements by simply going back to the donating couple and asking them if they'd like to sign a new contract.

Seems nearly impossible. Most of the researchers who are actually trying to use the stem cell lines probably have no access to the identifying information. If you're working on stem cell culture, you don't know and don't care who the cells were from, you respect their privacy. Until legalese gets arbitrarily in your way that is. It's not like the cells are labeled "Embryonic stem cells harvested from Jane Smith and Joe McDonald's aborted embryo."

Plus, if you did get the identifying information, contacted them, and they didn't tell you to go to hell, how would that conversation go

Researcher: "Would you sign this new form saying we can use your ESC?"
Donor: "You do research on this stem cell line?
Researcher:"Yes"
Donor: "Well since we're renegotiating contracts, I want to get paid this time, plus royalties on any grants you got with it."

Re:And... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970785)

Seems nearly impossible. Most of the researchers who are actually trying to use the stem cell lines probably have no access to the identifying information. If you're working on stem cell culture, you don't know and don't care who the cells were from, you respect their privacy
 
First of all, that seems unethical from the standpoint of the fact you're dealing with human beings, not just "cultures". I think I begin to see why the slippery slope in just this description.
 
Secondly, why the hell shouldn't donors be paid for essentially providing their family's information?
 
  Until legalese gets arbitrarily in your way that is. It's not like the cells are labeled "Embryonic stem cells harvested from Jane Smith and Joe McDonald's aborted embryo."
 
In fact, if I understand it correctly, it should be labeled "Embyronic Stem Cells harvested from Jane Smith and Joe McDonald's unused embryo from fertility treatment", not an aborted embryo at all.

Re:And... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969999)

Sure you don't get it. Just like Stalin constantly told the world that the polish would have their sovereignty back as soon as Germany was defeated. Politicians often say one thing to passify the masses and then do the opposite under some obscure justification. And with something like stem cells, it so low on the majorities radar that the context of reversing what was seen as a religious blockade but maintaining it under a different guise would be just as consistent but not anything different.

You asked why? Power, support from those who have the power, and control. I don't think there has been a modern president who wasn't in support of more federal government control in the last 30 years. Even with Reagan talking against large government controls and such, quite a few things were opted by the federal government and strongly controlled by it. The war on drugs anyone?

Re:And... (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970181)

Politicians often say one thing to passify the masses and then do the opposite under some obscure justification.

You asked why? Power, support from those who have the power, and control. I don't think there has been a modern president who wasn't in support of more federal government control in the last 30 years.

I asked why does Obama want to quash stem cell research. "Power" is a non-answer; he has the power by having the guidelines researches have to follow, whether those guidelines exclude stem cell research or not. The question is, what does this accomplish, and why would he deliberately restrict the old lines from being used, yet deliberately allow new lines to be created?

So yeah. I completely get that politicians will say one thing and do another, thanks. Now please start making sense, and explain how this makes sense.

Re:And... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27970949)

  1. Fourth Option - Research with out Federal money.
      Problem - Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESRC) is far less productive than Adult Stem Cell Research (ASCR), so investors who actually want to see some profit aren't putting their money into ESRC. Would you?
  2. We could just rewind to before the <sarc>Evil Bush</sarc>, but then there wouldn't be any Federal funding for ESRC at all. That's right it was the <sarc>Evil Christainist BushHitler</sarc> that opened up any Federal spending on ASRC in the first place.
  3. So maybe the people in charge are just incompetent? Wasn't anyone considered that as a possibility?

This was pretty much already the case (4, Informative)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968609)

The so-called Presidential lines aren't suitable for actual medical application

They were, and still are, suitable for research. Many of these lines have been contaminated in ways which pretty much already precluded any actual medical application.

Silly question (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968611)

Why can't the ethical debate be side stepped, by using cord blood cells? I never hear this mentioned when the topic of federal funding for stem cells comes up. I figured someone here could explain the pros and cons of these cells from a research point of view.

Re:Silly question (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968739)

Your question is not silly. NiggaBama is in the pockets of big pharma.

Why treat the disease when you could make billions upon billions treating the symptoms?

Re:Silly question (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969005)

Pushing embryonic stem cells is more about justifying abortion than actual stem cell treatments. Adult stem cells have shown the best treatment options while embryonic stem cells would have the same issues as organ transplants. Cord blood would likely be as effective as embryonic but does not help the abortion stance. Pharmaceuticals benefits as well in making drugs to prevent rejection from treatments made with embryonic sources.

It is more about politics and money at the cost of ethics and good science.

its called (4, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968619)

a draft...meaning its up for review and revision...

there can also be, get this, several of them created until they get it right.

Re:its called (5, Insightful)

flitty (981864) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968783)

The base of the problem:

The NIH requires consent forms that clearly mention human embryonic stem cell research, forbid donating eggs for the benefit of a specific person, and contain various other stipulations that were generally mentioned during older consent processes, but not rigorously codified. These rules could have a massive impact on existing and proposed research.

So, the previous consent forms conflict with the new consent forms, rendering most cell lines unusable. Sounds like the DRAFT needs to add a grandfather clause. This isn't that big of a deal other than it's sloppy standards writing. Good on Wired for bringing it up so that it can be fixed.

Re:its called (2, Interesting)

emag (4640) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968917)

Man, the best way to get around things is to call something a "draft". That way, no one's head it ever on the chopping block about it, since it's "only" a draft. You can easily change it, because it's "just" a draft. Yet you can still hold people to it because it's "the latest draft of what will be the policy". I see & hear about it a _lot_ at work. Some "policies" that are being enforced have been in "draft" form for a decade... Granted, it's IT, but these things cross-contaminate.

Re:its called (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969713)

Yet you can still hold people to it because it's "the latest draft of what will be the policy". I see & hear about it a _lot_ at work.

Sounds like one of your bosses doesn't understand the word "draft". At my job, if anyone tells me something is in the latest "draft", i'll tell them to come back when the draft gets Released as Policy. Auditors don't look at drafts, and neither should you.

Re:its called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27970755)

Sounds like the boss has been using too many "draft"s at the local pub.

Re:its called (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970463)

You can easily change it, because it's "just" a draft. Yet you can still hold people to it because it's "the latest draft of what will be the policy". I see & hear about it a _lot_ at work.

Sounds like your workplace is a lot looser about its bureaucracy than the government.

so much for getting government "out of" science... (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968637)

Wouldn't it be better to really get the government out of science altogether and let the actual scientists decide what to research instead of having some politically and/or religiously motivated bureaucrat making those decisions for them? Federal funding has always come with politically motivated restrictions. When Obama said he was getting the government "out of" science by increasing governmental funding I couldn't help but roll my eyes.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968755)

You mean like China? You assume that Scientists will act ethically without any oversight.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968835)

Seems like they'd find some other way to pay for it, doesn't it?

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968873)

No. Federal funding is not corporate revenue. It is taxpayer money. The taxpayers absolutely have the right (under a Democratic system) to ensure expenditures of those funds are in line with their needs, values, etc. The elected officials properly make political decisions regarding spending taxpayer money--as it should be.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968931)

The taxpayers absolutely have the right (under a Democratic system) to ensure expenditures of those funds are in line with their needs, values, etc. The elected officials properly make political decisions regarding spending taxpayer money--as it should be.

For better or worse a large number of those tax payers are going to object that the expenditures of these funds don't match their values regardless of what you do. Hence why it would make more sense to get the Government out of it altogether and let private capital fund this research.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969107)

They might object but they will have been represented. That is the key difference. If the political leaders truly, routinely make decisions against the majority then they will no longer be the political leaders.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969241)

They might object but they will have been represented. That is the key difference. If the political leaders truly, routinely make decisions against the majority then they will no longer be the political leaders.

The tyranny of the majority is just as insidious as other kinds of tyranny. When the Government takes my money and uses it to fund things that I have moral objections to I have no recourse. When private capital does it I can choose to invest my funds with a different firm.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969381)

The tyranny of the majority is just as insidious as other kinds of tyranny. When the Government takes my money and uses it to fund things that I have moral objections to I have no recourse.

Taken to it's logical conclusion, this is merely an argument for anarchy. Say I'm a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and I don't want my tax dollars spent encouraging or enabling people to eat meat. Consequently, I don't think the government should take my money and use it to fund stuff like health inspections at slaughterhouses or meat packing plants, etc. because that encourages people to eat meat. Also, I'm a religious fundamentalist and believe that I must literally cleave to the proscriptions in Leviticus, meaning I also don't want the government doing anything that involves shellfish, pork, or garments with more than one kind of material in them. And finally, I'm a pacifist and believe that all violence is wrong. Therefore, none of my money should be spent on the military; for that matter, I don't want that money going to my local police force because they carry guns and nightsticks.

Eventually, you'll find someone who has an objection to everything. So then, anarchy, because there's nothing at all you'll be able to find the government can fund and not run afoul of someone's ethical concerns.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969505)

Consequently, I don't think the government should take my money and use it to fund stuff like health inspections at slaughterhouses or meat packing plants, etc

I don't believe that the government should be using my money for those purposes. When you buy an electrical appliance are you content with the UL listing or do you limit your purchases to those appliances that have been tested by some Federal agency?

And finally, I'm a pacifist and believe that all violence is wrong. Therefore, none of my money should be spent on the military; for that matter, I don't want that money going to my local police force because they carry guns and nightsticks.

The difference is that the military is actually envisioned by the Constitution. Federal funding for scientific research and slaughterhouse inspection is not.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969529)

Big business rarely funds raw science, and due to their nature generally tend to look for the quick buck rather than long term progress. Also they have a genuine in keeping most research private, and patenting everything that crosses their mind.

Your plan would likely lead to nothing but another 10 different ED treatments.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970003)

get the Government out of it altogether and let private capital fund this research.

On the contrary, this is why it makes more sense to point out, like JFK did [wikipedia.org] , that leaders must lead their people, rather than pander to them. Sometimes this means doing things that your constituents do not want, but nonetheless, desperately need.

I think it is high time for a leader who does what is needed and not what is wanted. Whether Obama is the person remains to be seen.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

laddiebuck (868690) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970823)

Oh yes? So who do you think is going to pay? Private enterprise? That's never worked. If the taxpayer pays, the taxpayer's got a right to a voice.

What happens in effect is that the people are led by leaders, not by themselves, and these leaders make the decisions. The only difference is that in private enterprise they're completely unaccountable, in government, they are, just a bit.

Private enterprise has not funded more than a hundredth of scientific achievements in the last century.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970901)

Private enterprise has not funded more than a hundredth of scientific achievements in the last century.

Yeah, except for the laser (Hughes Research Laboratories), light bulb (various private inventors, finally brought to market by Thomas Edison), electrical engineering (Telsa, Westinghouse, Edison, etc), the telephone (various inventors not connected with Government), blah, blah, blah, blah. We'd all be helpless sheep stuck in the middle-ages if it wasn't for all that Government funding of scientific research......

Actually (1)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969013)

What Obama talked about was taking the politics out of science, not the government. Those aren't the same thing.

Re:Actually (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969047)

How do you take the politics out of the science when you hold the science hostage to political considerations to get the required funds?

Re:Actually (1)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969231)

How do you take the politics out of the science when you hold the science hostage to political considerations to get the required funds?

You try to make the policy and decision making processes for the agencies that fund this kind of thing independent of political appointees. It's not absolutely perfect, but it's also not impossible to do.

Also, it's worth noting three things. One, these are draft regs and the linked article only quotes a couple of people complaining about them without any indication of having contacted the agency for comment. Two, ethical decisions are actually important as part of research protocols, and establishing ethical standards can be done without it becoming rife with political considerations - there are people who study medical and scientific ethics who work to come up with reasonable ways to handle this kind of stuff. Three, this is just for federal funding; private organizations are free to continue using whatever stem cell lines they can legally obtain for their purposes.

Re:Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27970557)

Wait, are we talking about stem cell research or global warming here?

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (2, Interesting)

Ender_Stonebender (60900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969277)

No. The scientists have to get their funding from somewhere; and the government throws a lot of money around. The other options for funding are worse: You can get it from corporations, who will only fund research if they see a way to make a profit from it in the next three to five years; or you can get from universities, but I understand that the political games in academia are far more vicious than they are in government.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (2, Insightful)

raddan (519638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969917)

Nonsense. The tradeoff is small. Generally speaking, the politically-motivated decision makers are the appointees. They can set the direction of an organization, but they do not do the work. There are thousands of government scientists. They do good SCIENCE, which by it's very nature is truth-driven. Now whether you consider the pursuit of truth "politically motivated" or not is a matter of interpretation.

My brother works for the BFRL [nist.gov] at NIST [nist.gov] . Now, a lot of what they work on does not affect you. It's pure science. Fire in zero-G, for instance. This stuff would not be funded by commercial science, and much of it is too expensive for non-profit research institutions.

But this pure science-- it spins off in ways you couldn't imagine ahead of time. Being able to synchronize clocks around the world. Being able to buy something that weighs "1 kg" and knowing that, when you get it, it's the same "1 kg" that you meant.

The BFRL at NIST also looks at lots of practical things. Things like "How can we find people trapped in fires?" or "Can we develop a method for city planners to make smart staffing decisions for fire departments?" These practical things are often a direct consequence of pure science that was published many years before. And the scientists themselves, who work down the hall from each other, interact in many unexpected and positive ways. All of these things are of great value, but in many cases, they would not be done for lack of direct money-making potential. Government science keeps us safe, and it keeps our country competitive. It is absolutely essential.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

ViennaSt (1138481) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970143)

Look at history. There have been many instances where the public (not some activists lawmaker) DIDN'T want science to be self regulating. For example, when it was revealed through newspaper articles in the 1960s that scientists were conducting experiments on cats and dogs, the enraged public (we're talking tens of thousands) wrote their congressmen and pushed for regulation. Hence, the creation of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act and many other regulatory legislation pieces since then, as well as the formation of several oversight agencies, like OLAW and IACUC. If the masses wanted deregulation, with enough pressure and letters/emails it could happen. Unlikely, but it could. Okay, maybe I'm just being imaginative.

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

Peteyo311 (1555249) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970377)

I agree, The Governments role in the funding of science should be flat across the board with equal percentages for each important segment of scientific research (ie. Medical, AeroSpace, Fossilized History, etc.) that way no one who did "favors" during election gets a greater share. Unfortunately our government seems insistent on getting involved in issues they don't belong in. (third world countries' wars).

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970563)

Wouldn't it be better to really get the government out of science altogether and let the actual scientists decide what to research instead of having some politically and/or religiously motivated bureaucrat making those decisions for them?

Considering most of the recent technological developments were because of government (internet, GPS, blood transfusions, microwave, radar, nuclear power etc) I will have to disagree.

Yes, private business expanded on the ideas after the conception to what they are today and to be really fair I should say "the military" instead of just "the government", but without the artificial spending into defense, we wouldn't have seen so many technologies in such a small amount of time.

Really, if anything I'd argue in order to advance the quality of life we need more government R&D and writing DARPA a blank check wouldn't be a bad start.

Keep in mind we spend more tax money on things that don't really create research directly like Social Security and health care costs (not research).

Re:so much for getting government "out of" science (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970881)

To stop government funding would be to stop most research. Who else pays for it?

Are these guidelines going to affect my company? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968641)

I sell niggers and nigger accessories.

at least ... (3, Funny)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968655)

At least the "I support stem cell research" sound byte sounded good!

Why does federal funding equate to research? (2, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968665)

Or more to the point, does it, really work that way?

Taylor noted that removing federal support for ESC lines supported by Bush wouldnâ(TM)t only affect use of the cells, but all the work done to characterize line-specific behaviors and tendencies. âoeWhen you take a cell line and say weâ(TM)re not going to use it any more, youâ(TM)re talking about a tremendous body of information,â he said.

So if Uncle Sam isn't willing to pay the bills any more, the whole lot goes into the trash?

Why, then, are there more than 21 lines in existence now? And how is it possible that there are as many as 700 lines that are over 10 years old?

No, it seems to me that they will just have to get their money from somewhere else. And if their research is as appealing as they claim it should be, there should be other sources of funding.

This is more about Chicken Little than anything actually important to humanity...

Re:Why does federal funding equate to research? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968853)

Allow me to explain.

The world is pretty big, so pharmaceutical and other research companies like to shop around before doing anything.

So outside of the fact that some areas have more local expertise than others, public money is key to attracting research. (The US also has a natural advantage with its market size and anything goes marketing regulations)

Let's just say that Bush's finance strategy didn't really hurt the global stem cell research effort, it just hurt the stem cell research community inside the US.

Re:Why does federal funding equate to research? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970411)

Let's just say that Bush's finance strategy didn't really hurt the global stem cell research effort, it just hurt the stem cell research community inside the US.

How did it hurt the research community inside the U.S.? Before Bush, the U.S. didn't fund ANY embryonic stem cell research.
At the worst, it didn't help it as much as some would have liked.

Re:Why does federal funding equate to research? (1)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970911)

So long as the change is positive at all, we should be happy there was a gain. Pay no attention to the fact that all future gains will now be cripplingly slow as we struggle to make up for the fact that we've been hobbled. At least we are allowed to make SOME progress.

I think their point was that we've been left in the dust by the rest of the science world. The reason that there are 700 cell lines despite having no federal funding is not a sign of the availability of non-federal funds, but a sign that there is research outside of the US, most of which is light years ahead of us in this field. That is definitely a negative, not positive outcome.

Yes, embryonic stem cells exist DESPITE Bush's legislation, not because of it.

Close enough for government work (1)

Kaseijin (766041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969457)

Or more to the point, does it, really work that way?

It's not too far off. NIH funds more biomedical research than anyone else, and it has rules about sharing resources.

compromise vs progress (1, Insightful)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968689)

A small but highly vocal minority of the population wields undo influence over the GOP. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, seeks to avoid becoming tarnished with the same crud that the GOP smeared themselves with, and thus actively seeks compromise at every turn. Polls indicate that stem cell research has broad, lasting support among American voters. Don't let the spirit of compromise wind up blocking this valuable research. You won, Obama, tell your party, and your bureaucracy to get on with it, already.

Re:compromise vs progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969037)

Obama is not going to inflame the American people by playing a Bush-style stem cell fiasco. His administration is just trying to find the right wording. That's what drafts are for.

Re:compromise vs progress (2, Interesting)

BJ Raven (1555427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969285)

Unfortunately, the issue is that most Americans don't differentiate between the two main types of stem cell research - adult and embryonic. Even the title of this post doesn't! There are major differences, and if you don't already know them, see this (same site that is hosting the article): http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/health.asp [nih.gov] There have already been cures developed from adult stem cells, and pluripotent stem cells have been developed from adult stem cells (all according to the same nih.gov site). So why do we continue to pour public time, money, and effort down the embryonic stem cell avenue when the issue is so divisive to our country? That's what private research grants are for.

Re:compromise vs progress (1)

PriceIke (751512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970549)

Wow, that's some serious flamebait there. *eyeroll*

Drunken moderation .. it's a fun game!

At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (4, Informative)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968695)

At issue here are the NIH's proposed guidelines regarding a woman's consent to stem cell research when her donated eggs and embryos are used to create a cell line. The NIH wants to stiffen them to make sure that a woman has to specifically agree to let her eggs be used for stem cell research. I can understand that because I sure as hell wouldn't want cell lines made from my genetic material without my consent.

The problem is that these standards, if applied retroactively, would invalidate many of the currently-available stem cell lines. Scientists are more than happy to apply these new standards going forward, but obviously want current stem cell lines to be grandfathered in. I hope that the NIH clarifies the guidelines to allow already-existing stem cell lines to be used. After all, these are the draft standards, not the final ones.

I am happy that the NIH concerns do not seem to be motivated by a political agenda. Informed consent is the keystone of all medical treatment and medical research. This is a welcome change compared to the Bush Administration, which made scientific decisions based on religious and political grounds. Snow flake babies? Really? Come on.

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968953)

"I can understand that because I sure as hell wouldn't want cell lines made from my genetic material without my consent."
Why?
If they are going to be thrown away anyways, why do you think there still yours?

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969207)

For the same reason I think the genetic material in the condom I threw away is "mine", and would be upset if someone used it to procreate without my consent!

Go ahead and make a property rights argument about how I don't legally get to say what is done with my stuff that lands in the landfill. Who cares. This is about ethics, and I for one am glad that the medical research profession takes ethics into consideration.

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (2, Interesting)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970623)

Now, I don't disagree that that would be an upsetting situation, but I have a question.

Would it be upsetting because it was your DNA and you wanted it to get thrown away, or because it was used to create this offspring with needs and attached responsibilities and long lasting and expensive legal obligations that you didn't have a say in? Because really, would you be so upset if they used it to condition their hair instead?

You can discard something that you don't need in a lot of different ways. And some of those ways have consequences. Throwing sperm out implies that it should not be used for anything. According to the consent form, donating it to a sperm bank means anyone who wants it can have it to make a baby. Using sperm from the garbage to make a baby is wrong. But I think that this case is more like adding a line to the consent form that says "If checked, only hot chicks, no ugly girls can have my sperm" but expecting that all previous babies born to ugly girls should be abandoned immediately. The sperm donor may or may not have been cool with ugly girls, but to be safe, let's assume not, and lets just stop supporting all of these babies, since the person who donated their sperm might not have realized that by anyone, we meant ugly girls too.

Also, in my analogy, there might be a lot of orphanages, but only two will accept babies born to ugly girls, and they're run by really mean nuns named Pfizer and Merck. This scenario would suck a lot.

You get my point though, right? Garbage babies are wrong, stem cells still cool.

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970951)

This is about ethics, and I for one am glad that the medical research profession takes ethics into consideration.

Great, you're all for ethical research. Then what do you call Bush's decision to not federally fund any new lines?
Many critics attacked that decision as based solely on "religious" views, but that was also a matter of ethics, because at what point in development do you consider a human being (or a zygote or an embryo) officially a human being, the issue of a "soul" aside?
I don't think anyone can definitely, scientifically answer that question.
And actually, I'm playing devils' advocate here, as personally I'm pro choice, but I also understand and appreciate the other side's viewpoint.
I just think it's funny that conservatives support capital punishment but oppose abortion, and liberals support abortion but oppose capital punishment. It's sorta hypocritical on both sides.

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (2, Informative)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969399)

because they are! You own your genetic material (unless you live in CA and one of their universities decides that your cells would be useful to them). It's the entire basis for women having the authority to abort their own children. "It's My Body!" I fail to see a relevant distinction.

It's my genetic material inside of those cells and I may not have a problem with them being used, but I deserve to be asked first. I agree that a grandfather clause is in order to enable the use of previously established cell lines, but I think requiring adequate informed consent going forward is an excellent idea.

No one will be throwing out anything. The cells will simply be used only by labs not receiving federal funding for the research. That means labs outside of the US primarily, and a small subset of labs within the US if the benefits outweigh the hassles of finding funding other than the NIH.

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970225)

Because the issue with ethics we really need a clear line where what is right and what is wrong. Otherwise we fall on a sliding scale approach.

Most people who do evil things don't do it for evil reasons but fall on the sliding scale with ethics then they find themselfs in the black part of the shades of gray.

Ethics don't aways mesh well with progress but they are important, having an ethics border to stop even if it hinders short term progress has a greater long term advantage.

So lets use Using Genetic Samples from people without consent. Yes you may find a cure for some disease and save hundreds or thousands of people. However knowing this material is being stolen from other people people in the long term will find ways to protect their property, perhaps by avoiding going to the doctor, or not volunteering their material as they suspect that it has always been taken away from them.

Secondly say my genetic material was taken without my consent however it is still linked to me. Lets say for example I am found to have a genetic trait that could cause me to do criminal act, so that information is passed around and then I am spied on as I am considered a risk. (Not knowing that I have an other genetic traits that hinders it) So my right to privacy is loss because my genetic information was stolen from me.

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (2, Informative)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971027)

And if they were making stem cell lines out of embryos without consent, you'd have a point. As it is, they are making them WITH consent, and they are now making the consent form more specific. It isn't the same at all, really.

A right to privacy based on information in your genetic code is already a BIG DEAL in bioethics. While it really has nothing to do with stem cell lines, it is scary to think that your health insurance company could refuse to cover you because you carry genes that make you susceptible to cancer.

But really, it's more of a question of grandfathering in people who gave consent that their embryos were to be used in research with a form that was less specific as to HOW they might be used.

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (1)

SteeldrivingJon (842919) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969019)

"I can understand that because I sure as hell wouldn't want cell lines made from my genetic material without my consent."

You are Jango Fett and I claim my five pounds.

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (1)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970371)

At issue here are the NIH's proposed guidelines regarding a woman's consent to stem cell research when her donated eggs and embryos are used to create a cell line. I can understand that because I sure as hell wouldn't want cell lines made from my genetic material without my consent.

I think that what is really at issue is whether or not they already gave consent. No one argues that they shouldn't have to give consent before donating an embryo. But when you sign a paper that says:

  "I agree that my embryo might be used for any of a variety of research and scientific purposes including, but not limited to: blah blah blah, saving babies, curing cancer, finding out why lolcats are so popular... and I can't have any say in which if any it actually gets used for..."

are you really trying to argue that people didn't consent to having an embryo used to derive a line of cells? Yes, I'm sure that there are people who are too dumb to understand that this embryonic stem cell thing they've heard so much about and are VERY against has anything to do with the embryo they are about to donate, and they would never have done it if they had only known. But I'm willing to chalk that one up to the cost of being stupid. Absolutely add in specifically, in bold letters, that THESE EMBRYOS MIGHT GET TURNED INTO STEM CELLS... OMG PANIC and weed these people out in the future, so as not to force the unfortunate fate of saving lives on their poor helpless proto-offspring.

But lets not risk the loss of a whole lot of useful cell lines just in case the consent form wasn't specific enough in its list of possible embryo uses.

I mean, I think you agree with me here in terms of what you hope the overall outcome will be, but I really hate to even CONSIDER that they might NOT use any cell lines where it didn't specify stem cells on the consent form. Are we really going to let them hobble science because we're too dumb to understand how broad the scope of "well we might do anything" is?

Re:At Least These Concerns Were Based On Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27970457)

Dude, Bush's restrictions were made based on ethics. Maybe not your ethics, but that doesn't make them not-ethics.

If you don't like the requirements . . . (2, Insightful)

FencingLion (1553981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968701)

. . . come up with your own funding. It's not as though embryonic stem cell research is illegal.

Screw Obama (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968727)

Once Big Pharma (read: private funding) figures out how to make money off stem cells, you can bet your ass this tech will skyrocket.

All hail capitalism!!!

more bureaucracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968743)

Great more bureaucracy for scientists to pay/fight through to get anything done. No wonder the US is loosing its edge in just about everything.

If you want advancement, find a lot of brilliant scientists who are passionate about their work, lock them in a compound, feed 3 times a day and give them any scientific equipment/information they want without having to worry about cost, ethics or bureaucracy. Within a year you will have a solution to global warming, male pattern baldness, efficient energy storage and if most are male, robotic hookers. Or maybe something more destructive then the atom bomb.

Only with proper representation... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968765)

Only stem cells lines with properly protective representation can be used. Unions are having trouble getting stem cells to vote for union representation in anonymous voting. The stem cells which can be used are the ones which ACORN registered to vote, and their senators are helping them to be used and taxed.

Love ya Bernie! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27968775)

I feel bad that Bernie Madoff doesn't get to log on to Slashdot anymore. I mean, c'mon, leave the poor guy alone. 2 months in jail is enough to make anyone go insane. It's like throwing your dad in jail. My heart goes out to him and his family. He was also my favorite Mac user.

God bless ya Bernie.

How hard can it be? (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968785)

"Only stem cells created from sources which have little chance of ever being implanted for pregnancy may be used, and only with the consent of the genetic donors"

Ta-Da!!

One sentence that captures what they're actually trying to say, without invalidating the work that has already been done. Just write it in plain, understandable English and move on to the next issue please.

Re:How hard can it be? (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968889)

Just write it in plain, understandable English and move on to the next issue please.

We're from the Government. We don't do that sort of thing.

Re:How hard can it be? (1)

emag (4640) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969087)

This is the government. They don't do plain, understandable English. ...

And nowadays, they'd also need to do plain, understandable (Mexican) Spanish.

In California, there's about a dozen other languages they'd also have to do.

They needn't be abandoned (3, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968903)

Keep in mind that these rules for stem cell lines only concern what the US Government (mainly the NIH) will be permitted to fund with research dollars. The other stem cell lines needn't be abandoned or thrown away, they just can't be publicly funded.

Private and public companies can still conduct research on them, and several states (notably California) have alternate stem cell research funding programs available, with less stringent guidelines.

The government (not merely the Obama administration) is in a tight spot between those that want absolutely no research conducted on embryonic stem cells, and those that want to follow where the science leads them regardless of tricky ethical considerations.

I think the administration's position is a decent compromise. Plus, it is a foot in the door to loosening restrictions further. In this particular area of research, I feel a conservative (in the literal sense: resistant to change, hesitant, deliberate; NOT the political, neocon meaning), incremental approach is best until we have a good sense of what we are dealing with - the incredible benefits and the awesome risks. This grasp and understanding must be pervasive, too, not just within the small cadre of cutting-edge researchers, but also in the minds of policy-makers and the general public who would be funding this research.

WHile this story should be here (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27968907)

it is also painful to read these ignorant posts.

Read the damn guidelines and at least understand which one aren't allowed, why, and which ones are allowed.

In the long run, this opens up a lot or new lines then where allowed in the previous administration.

RAINBOWS (2, Funny)

bonch (38532) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969057)

Rainbows and ponies, glued together with hope! Vote Obama '08!

Sigh...

The Obama Ban (3, Informative)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969269)

Are the media going to do reports on the "Obama ban", like they've been doing on the "Bush ban"? Is it only a "ban" when you take funding from 0 to something non-0?

Re:The Obama Ban (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970481)

Are the media going to do reports on the "Obama ban", like they've been doing on the "Bush ban"? Is it only a "ban" when you take funding from 0 to something non-0?

No, it is only a "ban" when you are a Republican.

Good grief... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969611)

Obama is shaping up as a man who fearlessly combines the worst features of both parties.

public funding (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969765)

Are those lines forbidden from use, or only ineligible for FEDERAL MONEY when used? Bush placed no restrictions on what stem cells anybody could finance research on, and I don't believe Obama does either; it only restrict the expenditure of public money on such. I think that (very important) point was overlooked by many.

Contrary to the conspiracy theories (1)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970191)

I don't believe there is malice or conspiracy on the part of Obama administration at all. It's just plain ignorance, the hallmark of the empty slogans of hope fed through the adoring masses of those who lacked the intelligence to see through those slogans (media) to those to whom "hope" means a hope of more handouts (the entitlement class).

This is one bright future we are building for our children.

Re:Contrary to the conspiracy theories (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970819)

Never assume ignorance when malice would suffice.

We don't need them anyway (1)

steakandeggsburrito (955822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970637)

Didn't everyone hear? It's easy to take a cell from your body, force embryonic stem cell transcription factors into it, and it basically becomes a stem cell! In fact, it's even better, because it has your DNA. The technology behind this will (and basically already has) made this debate yesterday's news for anybody in the know.

Feeder mEFs? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27970665)

I work in an embryonic stem cell lab. Most, if not all, of these human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines require irradiated mouse embryonic fibroblast cells, or mEFs ("feeders"), in culture for the hESCs to maintain self-renewal and pluripotency. Feeder-free hESC systems are really difficult to work with, and few had any success with them. Since these hESCs were cultured with xenologous cells, they aren't clinically compliant to begin with. What the heck is Taylor talking about??

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