The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published its Guidelines for Research Involving Human Pluripotent Stem Cells. The Guidelines describe the documentation and assurances that must accompany requests for NIH funding for research using human pluripotent stem cells from human embryos or fetal tissue. They state specific criteria for informed consent and establish a review group to decide on compliance with the guidelines, thereby ensuring that NIH-funded research is conducted in an ethical and legal manner. Only cells derived from frozen embryos that were created for the purposes of fertility treatment and were in excess of clinical need may be utilized. The Guidelines prohibit the use of inducements for donation of an embryo. The Guidelines set out those areas where NIH will not provide funding, including research which creates or contributes to a human embryo, utilizes human pluripotent stem cells derived using somatic cell nuclear transfer, or those combined with an animal embryo.
Human pluripotent stem cells can give rise to many different types of cells, such as muscle, nerve, heart and blood cells. Research in this area could help scientists to generate cells and tissue for use in transplantation to treat many diseases or to improve understanding of the complex events that occur during normal human development and what causes diseases and conditions such as birth defects and cancer.
Guidelines for Research Involving Human Pluripotent Stem Cells. Federal Register, 25 August 2000.