Scientists spoke, the feds listened: With only two days left in office, the Obama administration on Wednesday issued new rules intended to protect people who participate in scientific research, stepping back from proposals that would have imposed significant new regulatory requirements on scientists.

In particular, the administration abandoned a proposal that would have required researchers to obtain written consent before using cells, blood, tumor samples, DNA, or other “biospecimens” obtained during medical procedures, even when the samples were stripped of the person’s name and other identifying information, or obtained from earlier studies the person had participated in. That was intended to prevent outrages such as the unauthorized use of cancer cells from patients like Henrietta Lacks, the African-American tobacco farmer whose tissue was taken in the 1950s without her permission or even her (or her family’s) knowledge.

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