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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. And one of the things the Obama administration has done is lift some restrictions on stem cell research. Scientists say they'll have a lot more freedom to do research that could one day lead to better treatments for injuries and disease. NPR's Joseph Shapiro has this story.

JOSEPH SHAPIRO: Eight years ago, President George Bush came up with a policy that allowed federal dollars to pay for some stem cell research, but only using about 20 stem cell lines that had existed before August 2001. In the years since, scientists have learned to make much better stem cell lines. But those didn't meet approval for federal funds.

Dr. ARNOLD KRIEGSTEIN (University of California, San Francisco): And so this created a real dilemma for somebody who was interested in starting to do stem cell research. The instinct would be to start using the newer, improved lines, but the problem was those lines would be ineligible for federal funding.

SHAPIRO: That's Dr. Arnold Kriegstein. He runs a research center at the University of California, San Francisco. Kriegstein says the new rules catch up with the improved technology. They'll allow federal funding for work on stem cells that come from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization at fertility clinics, but only in cases where the embryos were created specifically to make a baby and where there is clear consent from the donors that the leftover embryos can be used for stem cell research.

Dr. Raynard Kington, the acting director of the National Institutes of Health, said the new guidelines would be reviewed over time to make sure that they keep up with advances in technology.

Dr. RAYNARD KINGTON (Acting director, National Institutes of Health): We will be, at the direction of the president's executive order, reviewing on a regular basis the evolution of the science and the discussion in the broader society of the ethical issues. And when we believe that there is a compelling need, we will update these regulations.

SHAPIRO: One thing that won't be allowed: therapeutic cloning. That's where scientists obtain stem cells by cloning a human embryo. But scientists now think they may be able to one day use skin cells, not embryonic stem cells, to create cloned human tissue.

A draft of the rules was proposed in April and generated 49,000 comments from scientists, medical and religious organizations, members of Congress and the public. The final rules take effect today.

Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.

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