As the federal government’s new policy on embryonic stem cells becomes better understood, it’s clear that the outcome may be fewer available lines in the short term, depending on how a review panel evaluates each line’s origins. Mayo’s Jennifer McCormick, Ph.D. and her colleagues Christopher Scott, Ph.D., Stanford, and Jason Owen-Smith, Ph.D., Michigan, in a comment published online today in Nature Biotechnology, argue that less is not more when it comes to medical science. In fact, their research shows that ESC “lines have been neither uniformly available, nor uniformly used, indicating far less diversity of materials than most believe.” While their last count of 21 lines in the National Stem Cell Bank may seem like a lot, they point out that only two lines – H1 and H9 -- were widely used between March of 1999 and the end of 2008.
In contrast they show that the number of requests filled by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in roughly the same period were much more balanced. Calling the use of the two NCSB lines “a startling near-monopoly,” the trio points to bureaucratic and policy reasons as contributing to that trend. They urge the new review panelists to include all lines that were derived under “reasonable ethical standards” and to emphasize lines that are best for researchers. That means a bank of diverse examples that will be valued and used, and not simply bypassed by those doing serious studies.