In response to President Obama’s March 9th Executive Order lifting the Bush Administration’s restrictions on stem cell research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued draft guidelines on the federal funding of this research. The public comment period for the draft is open through May 26th so there’s still time to have your voice heard!

There’s no arguing that the Order was a major step forward for stem cell research, however, advocates have some concerns about the guidelines. While they do a good job of ensuring that eligible stem cell lines follow strict criteria on informed consent, quality of care, and other important ethical issues; they don’t ensure that currently used lines will be eligible. A provision should be added that permits use of current lines if they were derived using the prevailing ethical practices at that time. As the draft stands, important research could be brought to a standstill. The other major concern is the fact that the guidelines fail to provide funding for lines derived from sources other than IVF embryos—for example from somatic cell nuclear transfer. These sources offer great hope for patients and the guidelines should allow for federal funding of all avenues of stem cell research.

To read the draft guidelines go to http://stemcells.nih.gov/policy/2009draft. If you’re interested in submitting comments go to http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm and choose “self” as your affiliation. You can also get suggested language from the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) by sending an e-mail to [email protected].

The NIH will be analyzing both the content and the amount of public comment so pass this information on to friends and family who are pro-cures and excited about the future of stem cell research. Your support will help ensure that strong federal support moves critical science forward as quickly as possible.