National Academies’ Guidelines

Since 1998, the volume of research being conducted using human embryonic stem (hES) cells has expanded primarily using non-federal funds because of restrictions on the use of federal funds for such research. Given limited federal involvement, hES cell research has thus far been carried out under a patchwork of existing regulations, many of which were not designed with this research specifically in mind. In addition, hES cell research touches on many ethical, legal, scientific, and policy issues that are of concern to the public.

In 2005, the National Academies released the report Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, which offered a common set of ethical standards for the field. The report provided guidelines for the conduct of hES cell research that were intended to address both ethical and scientific concerns and to enhance the integrity of hES cell research by encouraging responsible practices in the conduct of that research.

In order to keep the Guidelines up to date, given the rapid pace of scientific developments in the field of stem cell research, the National Academies also established the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee in 2006 with support from The Ellison Medical Foundation, The Greenwall Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

This Committee issued amendments to the Guidelines in 2007 and 2008, which are available in the 2007 Amendments and 2008 Amendments reports. Future deliberations of the committee will address items for which additional information gathering and more extensive debate and discussion will be necessary.

The current (2008 amendments) version of the Guidelines is available for free download from National Academies Press.