Tuesday, May 20, 2014

'Immortal' Stem Cells and Informed Consent in California

The California stem cell agency is looking for some help in connection with a $32 million stem cell banking program to be sure that people who donate tissue understand that their cells will be transformed and made “immortal.”

The agency has issued a $150,000 request for proposals (RFP) for a 12-month study dealing with informed consent matters in the banking effort. The agency's RFP said it is “a unique program because it involves the creation of 9,000 iPS cell lines, from 3,000 individuals” that could increase to 5,000.

The RFP requests a report that will provide “in-depth analysis of donors' current understanding with respect to the informed consent process” and “recommendations for education materials that may improve program performance over time.”

Issues dealing with informed consent and research were highlighted a few years ago in a book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," that was on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list for more than 40 weeks. 

The California stem cell agency's RFP said,
“Unique aspects of the tissue collection for disease modeling awards that is critical for donors to understand include that researchers intend to:
“• Test donors blood and skin samples for infectious disease
“• Transform donor cells and make them into immortal iPSC lines
“• Record the genetic sequence of donor their cells
“• Distribute donor cells and associated medical and genetic information widely
“• Use cells and associated information to develop commercial medical products with no financial compensation to donors.
“In addition, minors and/or individuals with cognitive impairments will be recruited for this research and consent may be obtained from their legal guardian."

The proposed California study is linked to a $4 million segment of its $32 million stem cell banking effort approved in March of 2013. Former CIRM President Alan Trounson said at the time,
“This initiative will provide scientists with access to multiple cell lines that should have much of the genetic variations that represent the variety within any human disease such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, lung fibrosis and autism.”

The deadline for applications is June 1. Here is a link to a 2010 CIRM report on issues involved in the stem cell banking program, which was only a proposal at the time.

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