Let the U.S. compete on stem cell–but not play God

It tooks guts, but a committee of highly respected science and technology experts has taken a stand–the National Academies has basically endorsed stem cell research and issued detailed guidelines for investigators. Fortunately, they haven’t sidestepped the really sticky parts:

“The guidelines allow for the possibility of making various types of animal-human hybrids, called chimeras. But such experiments would face close scrutiny by the new review boards, and some experiments should be completely off-limits, the report declares. Injection of human embryonic cells into monkey or ape embryos to make primate chimeras would be banned, as would the creation of any human-animal chimera in which a human-like brain would be likely to develop.

Any chimeras that have the biological potential to make human sperm or eggs should not be allowed to breed, the report adds, to prevent creation of a human embryo in an animal’s womb.”

The hope is that U.S. researchers can now collaborate across states and organizations with widely varying rules and regulations, despite the lack of overriding federal regulation.

Congratulations to the National Academies for their courageous effort. The world is not going to ignore or “go slow” on this type of research, so the U.S. can ill afford to leave this area of knowledge untapped.