NIH Announces Locations Of Stem Cell Labs

Those self-renewing stem cell colonies became much more important following President Bush’s decision earlier this month that only experiments involving existing lines would be eligible for possible funding.

Scientists hope the stem cells controlled by the 10 companies outlined in today’s NIH statement could eventually yield treatments for illnesses like Alzheimer’s, cancer or spinal cord injury. Four of the labs are in the United States.

“It is our hope that federally-funded investigators will take full advantage of this new opportunity to conduct research on existing human embryonic stem cells and explore the enormous promise of these unique cells,” a statement on the NIH Web site said, “including their potential to produce breakthrough therapies and cures.”

The statement said the NIH has spoken with the scientists who derived the cells and believes they are willing to work with the scientific community.

“Now it’s time to go to work,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, a supporter of the research, said today. “The knowledge that these 64 embryonic stem cell lines exist and will be available for research should inspire our nation’s best scientific minds to begin planning for ways they can aggressively take advantage of this historic and unique opportunity.”

Several groups, including the Catholic Church, have opposed the research since it requires destroying a human embryo. And throughout the summer, the president solicited opinions from various groups on ways to balance ethical concerns with medical possibilities. President Bush finally settled on a compromise August 9 to allow funding to go only to studying stem cell lines that already existed at the time of his announcement.

The president also outlined other requirements for the stem cell lines — the cells must have been created from fertility treatments and gathered with the consent of the donor but with no financial incentives.

Human embryonic stem cells are found in embryos that are about five days old. The stem cells can develop into virtually all of the specialized cells and tissues that make up a human being.

In its announcement today, the NIH underscored the possibilities it believes stem cells could hold for members of the scientific community.

“We will do all we can to ensure that the scientific community has an opportunity to fully and swiftly investigate the promise of human embryonic stem cell research,” it said. “We urge federally-funded researchers to begin their explorations with the profound hope that we stand at the threshold of a true breakthrough in our ability to treat disease and disability.”

Location and Number of Available Stem Cell Lines
BresaGen, Inc., Athens, Georgia
CyThera, Inc., San Diego, California
Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India
Reliance Life Sciences, Mumbai, India
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
University of California, San Francisco, California
Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, 
Madison, Wisconsin