Rabb responded on January 15, 1999, that federal law permits the NIH to support such research, basing her opinion on a somewhat strained interpretation of OCESAA
. (102) In Rabb's opinion: the statutory prohibition on human embryo research does not apply to research utilizing human pluripotent stem cells because human pluripotent stem cells are not embryos.
On 21 October 1998, Congress approved Public Law 105-277, the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (OCESAA) that not only allocated funds for most fiscal year 1999 spending but also specified how the money could be used.
Barely two weeks after OCESAA became law, James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin and John Gearhart at Johns Hopkins University announced success in culturing human stem cells, a step that NIH Director Harold Varmus has said opens new frontiers in basic study of human development and genetic diseases, in drug and toxicity testing, and in transplantation therapy, with the prospect of creating cells to treat genetic conditions and tissues to mend damaged hearts, brains, and other organs without triggering cellular rejection.