Many Cell Lines Might Not Prove Useful, Researchers Say

Meanwhile, Harvard Could Become a Cell Supplier

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WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 28, 2001 ( A federal agency has identified the developers of 64 embryonic stem cell lines eligible for study using government money.

The announcement by the National Institutes of Health triggered new questions among scientists and others on how quickly stem-cell research will move forward under the limited-funding policy of President George W. Bush.

Some researchers representing groups that created the cell lines said that many of the cells are in a very early stage of scientific assessment and might never prove useful, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

In a related development, a fertility clinic announced recently that it will give human embryos to Harvard in a deal that could make the university one of the world´s top suppliers of embryonic stem cells.

Boston IVF, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based organization of fertility clinics, said it has thousands of frozen embryos that could provide stem cells. The embryonic human beings would be destroyed in the process.

The firm said it plans to begin contacting donor couples for permission to use their embryos so Harvard scientists can extract stem cells. «Of the handful of couples we´ve contacted, they seem to be quite interested,» said Dr. Doug Powers, director of Boston IVF´s laboratory.

«It is our intention to make these cells available to anyone who would like them to do research,´´ Douglas Melton, chairman of Harvard´s cell and molecular biology department, told The Boston Globe. «They are not being prepared with the intention of having any rights, commercial or otherwise.´´

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute will finance the arrangement between the school and the clinic. Melton is on the staff of the Maryland-based private foundation.

Massachusetts law requires oversight by a scientific ethics board for donation of embryos. Harvard´s institutional review board will monitor the deal with Boston IVF.

Any embryonic stem cell research conducted at Harvard would not be eligible for the federal funding outlined by President Bush earlier this month.

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