US authorities Wednesday approved 13 new lines of human embryonic stem cells for scientific research in the first such move after the Obama administration lifted a ban on their 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," said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
"In accordance with the guidelines, these stem cell lines were derived from embryos that were donated under ethically sound informed consent processes," he added in a statement.
The move comes almost six months after the US government in July unveiled the final rules for using human embryonic stem cells in research.
They allow funding for research using human embryonic stem cells derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and no longer needed, in a departure from the Bush administration's policy.
The new framework set out rules for "ethically responsible, scientifically worthy" studies after President Barack Obama in March lifted a ban on embryonic stem cell research imposed under his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Bush barred federal funding from supporting work on new lines of stem cells derived from human embryos in 2001, allowing research only on a small number of already existing embryonic stem cell lines.
Using human embryos for scientific research, which often involves their destruction, crossed a moral barrier concerning the right to life, the former president had argued.
But in reversing the ban, the Obama administration argued that the promise of medical breakthroughs through stem cell research could not go unexplored.
Scientists say such research is key to designing treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes.
"More lines are under review now, and we anticipate continuing to expand this list of responsibly derived lines eligible for NIH funding," Collins said.
The Children's Hospital Boston developed 11 of the approved lines and Rockefeller University in New York City developed two of the approved lines.
A further 96 lines have been submitted to NIH for consideration and eventual use, the statement said.
Among those projects which may now gain access to the 13 new lines of embryonic stem cells were studies into the regeneration of diseased or damaged heart muscle cells and developing systems for the production of neural stem cells and different types of neurons.