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Stem Cell Registry to Be Posted Within a Week, Official Says

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    Stem Cell Registry to Be Posted Within a Week, Official Says

    November 1, 2001

    Stem Cell Registry to Be Posted Within a Week, Official Says

    ASHINGTON, Oct. 31 - A much- anticipated registry of human embryonic stem cells that could be used for federally financed research should be available to scientists and the public within a week, a government health official said today.

    The official, Dr. Wendy Baldwin of the National Institutes of Health, which is coordinating federally sponsored research in the promising but controversial area, said at a Senate subcommittee hearing that the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry was almost ready for posting on the Internet after several delays.

    The panel's chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who is a strong supporter of stem cell research, pressed Dr. Baldwin to set a date, finally asking if it could be done "within a week."

    Dr. Baldwin replied, "I think that is a reasonable expectation."

    Mr. Specter then said he would hold the agency to that timing.

    President Bush announced in August that he would allow federal financing for some stem cell research, but only if it involved the 60 or so colonies, or lines, of embryonic cells, that existed before his decision. The embryos are destroyed in the process of obtaining the cells, and Mr. Bush said he would not support research that required further destruction of embryos.

    On Sept. 5, Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, told another Senate panel that a registry listing 64 stem cell lines, including details of their biological characteristics and availability, would be put on the health institutes' Web site within two weeks. Scientists and advocates for patients have grown impatient with delays in posting the registry, noting that researchers could not draft applications for financing without the information.

    Stem cells have the ability to grow into any of the body's more than 200 cell types, and scientists hope to use them to create replacement tissue that might cure many ailments, including spinal cord injury, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and damaged heart tissue. While acknowledging the promise of the research, others have moral objections because obtaining the cells requires destroying human embryos.

    Dr. Baldwin said after today's hearing that the health institutes expected to begin financing research with the acceptable stem cell lines early next year. Posting the registry has taken longer than expected, she said, because of governmentwide disruption and renewed security concerns after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    She added that government representatives had met with the 10 laboratories in five countries that developed the cell lines to discuss their terms for making the cells available to others. And she said the government wanted to detail the characteristics of each cell line, some of them fully developed and others in earlier stages.

    "The registry is 99.9 percent done," Dr. Baldwin said. "We are crossing the t's and dotting the i's to make sure we have everything right before it goes up."