A National Institutes of Health (NIH) advisory committeevoted unanimously Friday to accept proposed guidelinesfrom a panel that called for federal funding of research onhuman embryos.

The next step is up to NIH director Harold Varmus, whois under no time constraints in making his decision, NIHspokesman Don Ralbovsky told BioWorld.

The 19-member panel, after eight months ofdeliberations, suggested that the government fund embryoresearch, under strict guidelines. (See BioWorld Today,Sept. 28, 1994, p. 1.) The Human Embryo Research Panelconcluded that a human embryo warrants serious moralconsideration as a developing form of human life, butdoes not have the same "moral status" as those peoplewho could benefit from the research.

If adopted by the NIH, the panel's guidelines would end a15-year ban on federal funding of human embryoresearch. Since the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 OK'dthe agency's funding of such research, about 70 grantapplications have been received.

Among the most direct and immediate benefits of embryoresearch, the NIH said, is in the treatment of infertilityand the advancement of preimplantation diagnosis ofgenetic and chromosomal abnormalities. The agency alsocites many other possible medical benefits. _ JimShrine

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.