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Stem Cell Obstacle Solved, But to Limited Effect

Scientists in California have developed a method for growing human embryonic stem cells without relying on animal cells that could contaminate them with viruses. The new approach solves a major problem in a field that hopes to use the cells in medical therapies. But distributing the new lines to other researchers is a challenge; the government restricts federal funding on lines not created prior to 2001. NPR's Joe Palca reports.

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Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.