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Winter 2009 Vol. 8 Number 3



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BRIEF TAKES


New Stem Cell Guidelines

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine released amended guidelines for research involving human embryonic stem cells, revising those that were issued in 2005 and updated in 2007.

©Pixtal/age footstockThe guidelines were originally produced to offer a common set of ethical standards for the responsible conduct of research using human embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to produce all the body's cell types. Scientists are currently working to harness stem cells' ability to regenerate themselves and produce specialized cells.

One reason for the modifications is to provide guidance on the derivation and use of new stem cells called "induced pluripotent cells." They are made by reprogramming nonembryonic adult cells into a stem-cell-like state and manipulating them to form an array of specialized cells. The guidelines contain provisions for work with induced pluripotent cells that are similar to those in place for embryonic cell lines.

At this time it is still undetermined which types of stem cell will prove the most useful for regenerative medicine, as each will most likely have some utility. Therefore, the need for research with human embryonic stem cells still exists despite the availability of new cell sources, the guidelines say. Additionally, the amendments clarified the expenses for which female egg donors can be reimbursed should include lost wages.

The standing advisory committee that wrote the guidelines also held a symposium in November to explore the path toward using stem cells in clinical applications, including their use in the treatment of Parkinson's and heart disease. For more information, visit <national-academies.org/stemcells>.   -- Jennifer Walsh


Science Comes to Hollywood

The National Academy of Sciences launched a new initiative called the Science and Entertainment Exchange, which is designed to connect top scientists and engineers with entertainment professionals to help them develop more accurate science content in films, TV shows, and videogames.

NAS President Ralph Cicerone (left) with Janet and Jerry Zucker, co-hosts of the Science and Entertainment Exchange symposium, held November 2008 in Hollywood, photo by Kari Wilton"By building a strong connection between the entertainment and science communities, we're hoping to provide an important service to both Hollywood and the viewing public," said NAS President Ralph Cicerone.

NAS announced the initiative in Los Angeles and held a symposium to introduce Hollywood to the new program. Some 350 screenwriters, producers, and set designers were inspired and entertained by some of the most prestigious scientists in the U.S., talking about their research, including Nobel Prize winner Steve Chu, the new U.S. secretary of energy, Rodney Brooks from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Neil DeGrasse Tyson from the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and Craig Venter from the Craig Venter Institute.

Film director Jerry Zucker and his wife, producer Janet Zucker, co-hosted the event. "The Exchange will provide a place where scientific and artistic minds can come together to inspire each other, building a two-way street for both communities to learn and create," Jerry said.   -- Maureen O'Leary



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Copyright 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences