Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Associated Press Digs Into Eggs, Money and Stem Cell Research

The Human Egg Debate just racheted up a notch.

Generally confined to scientific journals and websites like the California Stem Cell Report, the issue of scientists paying for eggs for human embryonic stem cell research today clattered onto a broader stage in a thorough-going piece by The Associated Press. The international news service distributes its stories to virtually every newspaper, radio and television station in the country.

Marcus Wohlsen wrote the article out of San Francisco. It began,
"Facing a human egg shortage they say is preventing medical breakthroughs, scientists and biotech entrepreneurs are pushing the country's top funders of stem cell research to rethink rules that prohibit paying women for eggs."
The California stem cell agency was mentioned in the second paragraph. Stemagen, a San Diego stem cell firm, was mentioned in the sixth. Alan Trounson, CIRM's president, Harvard's Kevin Eggan, Cascade LifeSciences, also of San Diego, and the Center for Genetics and Society of Oakland, Ca., were all included.

Sam Wood
(pictured), chief executive of Stemagen, said that bans on payments for eggs have kept researchers from making advances that could save lives.

He was quoted as saying,
"You need to have enough eggs to make this thing work, and when you have enough eggs it does work."

"If these guidelines weren't in place, we'd already have many (stem cell) lines and be much closer to a treatment for devastating illnesses for which these are so well suited."
The AP story continued:
"As the country's largest funder of stem cell research by far, California's policy sets the pace for biotech firms and academic researchers nationwide. National guidelines advising against egg payments were developed to ensure any innovations would remain eligible for California funds; any changes to the state's policy would likely have an immediate ripple effect.

"California could also face increasing competition for business and scientific talent as New York prepares guidelines for its own $600 million stem cell research program. A draft report released by the New York program's planning committee said the state may allow payment for eggs."
But Wohlsen quoted Marcy Darnvosky of the Center for Genetics and Society as saying,
"Do we really want to put women at risk to provide raw materials for research a lot of scientists say really isn't the way to go?"
The references to Cascade, Trounson and Eggan all were to events chronicled earlier on the California Stem Cell Report, including the June meeting of CIRM's directors and the February meeting of the CIRM Standards Working Group.

The AP story pulled all of it together for general readers across the nation and perhaps abroad. Wohlsen's article will also attract the attention of editors around the country who may well commission locally written pieces and possibly editorials. It might even trigger a television news story or two.

1 comment:

  1. To turn the guideline argument inside out, note that Hwang Woo Suk, in a footnote in his second paper in the journal Science, spoke of his compliance with the then-recently enacted guidelines in South Korea. But, he hadn't really complied, or created the stem cell lines, either.


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