Friday, July 18, 2008

CIRM Reviews the Business of Human Eggs

One week from today, the California stem cell agency is going to dig into the hot topic of human eggs – how many can scientists can get and their cost.

To its credit, the agency has posted background material on the subject well in advance of the July 25 meeting of its Standards Working Group in Los Angeles. Providing the material early is a refreshing change from CIRM's recent dilatory practices. The agency is to be commended.

The egg meeting comes in the wake of complaints earlier this year by researchers and CIRM President Alan Trounson that human eggs were not to be had in sufficient quantities for research. Kevin Eggan(pictured) of Harvard, a member of the Standards group, said that he and his colleagues had spent $100,000 advertising for human egg donors with little success.

The problem is that California and other states bar compensation for eggs for research. But handsome payments -- $15,000 and even more -- are made by IVF clinics for the same egg donation process. So most women take the cash.

Eggan made his comments last February. The ensuing discussion set in motion a review of CIRM policies dealing with compensation of donors. The issue also came up briefly last month at the meeting of the CIRM board of directors.

Trounson said scientists are having a "terrible time" securing eggs. He declared,
"It's all because there's no partnershipping arrangements or because they're using very few oocyte material. They're now trying to use cattle eggs, other species. They're floundering."
CIRM has prepared a draft briefing paper dealing with the egg issue. The agency has not completed all of its work on the subject, but it is surveying funding institutions, interviewing scientists and others and determining whether specific cell lines are not being used by CIRM grantees.

The briefing paper lists the following policy questions.
"Should CIRM funded researchers be able to use 'outside' hESC lines if they are derived from IVF-embryos created with paid gametes?

"Should CIRM funded researchers be able to utilize hESC lines derived from IVF-embryos created with paid gametes under an 'authorized authority'?

"Should CIRM funded researchers be be able to utilize IVF-embryos created with
paid gametes to derive new lines?"
Also prepared for next week's meeting is a briefing paper on uses of cell lines derived prior to CIRM regulations.

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