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NIH Approves 13 Embryonic Stem Cell Lines for Harvesting

WASHINGTON -- The federal government's chief medical facility will start harvesting embryonic stem cells after the National Institutes of Health on Wednesday announced it has approved 13 batches of master cells for a study using taxpayer dollars

Dozens more are in the pipeline.

President Obama lifted restrictions on stem cell research in March after the Bush administration had limited publicly funded research to stem cells not retrieved from human embryos.

The $21 million worth of pending new studies could not begin until NIH determined which of hundreds of already created stem cell lines -- culled from embryos left over from fertility treatments -- were ethically appropriate to use.

"I am happy to say that we now have human embryonic stem cell lines eligible for use by our research community under our new stem cell policy," NIH Director Francis S. Collins said. "In accordance with the guidelines, these stem cell lines were derived from embryos that were donated under ethically sound informed consent processes. More lines are under review now, and we anticipate continuing to expand this list of responsibly derived lines eligible for NIH funding."

Thirteen batches are available immediately and another 96 are undergoing NIH review. Children's Hospital Boston developed 11 of the approved lines and Rockefeller University in New York City developed two.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.