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Scientists find embryonic stem cells available under limited federal guidelines tainted.

The human embryonic stem cells available under the Bush administration's strict policies which limit federal funding to the use of cell lines already in use as of August 9, 2001, are contaminated with nonhuman molecules from the culture medium used to grow the cells and likely not viable to use in treating humans, according to scientists.

Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers said they found batches of available stem cells were contaminated with a non-human molecule called N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) The molecule is found on the surface of animal cells but not on human cells, and is attacked by the human immune system.

The study's lead authors - Dr. Ajit Varki, of the University of California at San Diego and Dr. Fred Gage of the Salk Institute - said the only way to circumvent the finding is to grow new cell lines in ways that avoid animal contaminants. However, under the current guidelines federal funds cannot be used to create new uncontaminated stem cell batches.

"The human embryonic stem cells remained contaminated by Neu5Gc even when grown in special culture conditions with commercially available serum replacements, apparently because these are also derived from animal products," Varki said in a statement. "It would seem best to start over again with newly derived human embryonic stem cells that have never been exposed to any animal products. However, such an approach could not be pursued under existing rules for the use of federal grant dollars."
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Publication:Transplant News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 31, 2005
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