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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Some Stem Cell Lines Off Limits

Stanford University is to tell its researchers that around one-quarter of the human embryonic stem-cell lines eligible for US government funding are now off-limits because of ethics concerns.

The institute, in Palo Alto, California, is concerned that some of the women who donated the embryos for these stem-cell lines did not give informed consent for the lines to be used in research. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, has decided to reconsider lines individually as researchers express an interest in using them.

The concerns follow an analysis by bioethicist Robert Streiffer of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who obtained copies of the informed consent forms given to donors of the 21 lines that have been approved for federal research funding by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Streiffer compared these forms with guidelines set by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS). None of the forms met the guidelines exactly, he concluded, and some deviated egregiously (R. Streiffer Hastings Cent. Rep. 38, 40–47; 2008).

Now, ethics oversight committees at universities across the United States are questioning which lines should be permissible for research — and hoping that another agency, such as the NIH or a state government, will make the decision for them.

Read it all here.

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