The guidelines provide Canadian researchers with more sources of human embryos than are available to their counterparts in the United States, which only allows federally-funded scientists to work with existing cell lines, not new embryos.
Set by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the guidelines for Canadian scientists who receive government research money also call for creation of a new scientific agency to oversee compliance. Canada's guidelines ban cloning embryos specifically for research, which is allowed in Great Britain. Legislation passed by the U.S. House and under consideration by the Senate would ban such cloning in the United States.
In August, President Bush severely restricted the use of federal funds in embryonic stem cell research to the 64 known cell lines in existence. Extracting stem cells destroys embryos.
Embryonic stem cells, found in embryos and umbilical cord blood, can develop into almost every type of tissue in the human body. They are believed to hold great potential for treating diseases and generating replacement organs.
Because harvesting stem cells involves destroying an embryo, the research has prompted an ethical debate linked to cloning and abortion. Anti-abortion forces oppose any use of embryonic stem-cell research, saying it goes against the concept that life begins at conception. They call for working with adult stem cells, but some researchers say the embryonic stem cells offer more potential.