Sunday, July 07, 2013

Eggs and Cash: Stem Cell Agency Considering Easing Restrictions on Stem Cell Lines Derived Using Payments

The California stem cell agency is moving to remove an absolute ban on use of stem cell lines derived from eggs from women who have been paid to provide them.

The action comes as state legislation is headed for Gov. Jerry Brown's desk that would permit payments for eggs to be used in research that is not funded by the agency. The measure (AB926) would not alter the separate ban on egg payments involving research funded by the $3 billion stem cell agency.

Under a proposal that will come before the agency's standards group July 24, CIRM's governing board could approve the use of stem cell lines derived as a result of payment to women. Board action would be based on whether stem cell lines would “advance CIRM's mission” and would follow a staff evaluation involving scientific and ethical issues.

Over recent years, stem cell researchers around the country have reported that they are not able to obtain sufficient eggs without payment. And earlier this year, paid egg providers were used in research in Oregon that cloned human stem cells, a feat that researchers have struggled with for years.

A CIRM staff report said that the Oregon research has “generated scientific interest among CIRM grantees and the desire to utilize derived SCNT lines. CIRM’s current policy prohibits the use of the (Oregon) SCNT lines because oocyte donors were financially compensated. CIRM requests the Medical and Ethical Standards Working Group (SWG) revaluate this prohibition with regard to CIRM grantees ability to utilize the resulting lines in light of recent scientific and policy developments.”

Last month, the California Stem Cell Report queried the agency concerning earlier, sketchy information onthe CIRM blog about a possible change in its compensation rules. We asked whether the agency was considering “sidestepping” the ban on compensation. Kevin McCormack, a CIRM spokesman, said, “No, not at all.” He said it would be premature to elaborate until a firm proposal was ready.

The staff proposal to be considered on July 24 said,
“Proposition 71’s 'prohibition on compensation' compels the ICOC(the agency's governing board) to adopt standards 'prohibiting compensation to research donors.' This requirement has been consistently interpreted to prohibit the use of CIRM funds to financially compensate oocyte (or other cell or tissue) donors. In 2006, this interpretation was extended to exclude from use, in CIRM-funded research, any stem cell line where research donors were financially compensated, even if the derivation was done without the use of CIRM funds. Proposition 71, however, does not compel the ICOC (the agency's governing board) to prohibit the use of stem cell lines where financial compensation is provided to the oocyte donors, provided that CIRM funds are not used to compensate the donors or derive the lines.”
The July 24 meeting will be held in San Francisco. No remote teleconference locations have been announced.  If approved, the changes would likely be considered July 25 by the full agency board.
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