Lab concerned stem cell lines could be wasted

October 22, 2010 (CHICAGO)

A private genetics lab in Chicago claims to be one of the world's largest holders of stem cell lines. But the lab has been denied federal funding. The lab is concerned that many of these lines will now go to waste.

The Reproductive Genetics Institute is a private lab in Chicago that for decades has created human embryonic stem cells marked with different diseases. The hope was some 47 stem cells lines they have collected could be used as government research to combat illnesses such as muscular dystrophy and Huntington's disease.

But, this past summer, a federal health panel denied RGI funding because of concerns about some legal language used in their consent forms.

RGI believes its lines could give scientists insight into the way genetic defects develop and how they can be treated.

"We have over 400 different embryonic stem cells lines, of which about 100 are with different genetic disorders, and all others are normal embryonic stem cell lines," said Dr. Anver Kuliev, RGI director of research.

The lines come from embryos for in vitro fertilization that were not used and donated.

The lab helped establish what is known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. That's where a couple's embryos can be checked for mutations before being implanted.

RGI says the embryos would have been destroyed anyway.

The lab also says patients were not compensated in any way for these embryos. It adds it cannot donate these stem cells lines to any other institution because they would still need government funds to work with these lines.

So, in the meantime, the lines will remain frozen and could eventually be discarded.

Opponents say extracting cells from embryos is a destruction of human life and should not be allowed or supported with federal research dollars.

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