Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stem Cell Lines and Paid-for Eggs: Stem Cell Agency Delays Action on Easing Restrictions

A key panel of the California stem cell agency today balked at approving a plan to ease restrictions on using stem cell lines derived from women who were paid for their eggs.

The proposal had been scheduled to be taken up tomorrow by the governing board of the $3 billion agency, but the board's standards working group delayed action.

In response to a question, Kevin McCormack, a spokesman for the agency, said in an email,
“It was felt that more discussion was needed before moving to a vote so another meeting is going to be scheduled.”
In 2006, the CIRM governing board approved regulations that banned the use of CIRM funds for stem cells lines derived using compensation. That rule would be modified under today's plan, which would permit the CIRM governing board to approve the use of such lines following a staff study evaluating scientific and ethical issues. Their use would be allowed if the lines would “advance CIRM's mission.”

The delay came after four organizations, including the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, argued that the plan is vague and did not adequately address safety issues.

The four-page statement by the groups said that the plan does not appear to have met “numerous concerns” raised in 2009 in a document co-authored by the CIRM staff. Those concerns include long-term risk and ethical issues.

Under the proposal, the groups said that the agency governing board
“...will decide whether to approve a grantee’s request to use a stem cell line created with paid-for eggs on the basis of whether doing so 'will advance CIRM’s mission.' This criterion is much too vague, and doesn’t include consideration of the health or welfare of the women who undergo egg retrieval. Protecting the well-being of women providing eggs is not even mentioned (though perhaps it could be considered as an element of the fifth of five 'factors to be considered by the ICOC(the agency board),' 'whether the donation…was consistent with `best practices’ at the time of donation').”
The standards group also heard from a UCLA researcher who argued on behalf of the change. Kathrin Plath said she and her colleagues wanted to use a paid-for stem cell line from the Oregon experiment that cloned human stem cells.
(An earlier version of this item said the change under consideration would ease restrictions on "purchasing" stem cell lines. The word "purchasing" was changed to "using.")
Here is the text of the statement by the four organizations.

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