the research met the highest scientific and ethical standards. If the federal government chooses to fund research on human embryonic stem cells, a similar national advisory group composed of exceptional researchers, ethicists, and other stakeholders should be established at NIH to oversee it. Such a group should ensure that proposals to work on human embryonic stem cells are scientifically justified and should scrutinize such proposals for compliance with federally mandated ethical guidelines.
Regenerative medicine is likely to involve the implantation of new tissue in patients with damaged or diseased organs. A substantial obstacle to the success of transplantation of any cells, including stem cells and their derivatives, is the immune-mediated rejection of foreign tissue by the recipient’s body. In current stem cell transplantation procedures with bone marrow and blood, success can hinge on obtaining a close match between donor and recipient tissues and on the use of immunosuppressive drugs, which often have severe and life-threatening side effects. To ensure that stem cell-based therapies can be broadly applicable for many conditions and individuals, new means to overcome the problem of tissue rejection must be found. Although ethically controversial, somatic cell nuclear transfer, a technique that produces a lineage of stem cells that are genetically identical to the donor, promises such an advantage. Other options for this purpose include genetic manipulation of the stem cells and the development of a very large bank of embryonic stem cell lines. In conjunction with research on stem cell biology and the development of stem cell therapies, research on approaches that prevent immune rejection of stem cells and stem cell-derived tissues should be actively pursued.
The committee is aware of and respectful of the wide array of social, political, legal, ethical, and economic issues that must be considered in policy-making in a democracy. And it is impressed by the commitment of all parties in this debate to life and health, regardless of the different conclusions they draw. The committee hopes that this report, by clarifying what is known about the scientific potential of stem cells and how that potential can best be realized, will be a useful contribution to the