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New York considers paying women for eggs for stem cell research

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on June 3rd, 2008

Advertisement in the Washington Express, recruiting egg providers for Advanced Cell Technology (2006)

After the passage of a bill over a year ago, the New York state stem cell research program has been quietly gearing up. Despite minimal press coverage, NYSTEM's $600 million makes it the second largest such endeavor, after California's $3 billion-plus-interest undertaking. This week, it released its draft strategic plan [PDF], which is open for comments.

One aspect that caught my eye, not surprisingly, concerns the sourcing of fresh human eggs for cloning-based stem cell research (a.k.a. somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT). Although NYSTEM's brief authorizing law is silent on this and related issues, such matters have been deliberated by NYSTEM's Ethics Committee. The draft strategic plan reveals the Committee and the program's governing board are considering offering compensation for women to provide eggs. (pages 26-27)

This would be an unfortunate deviation to the generally agreed-upon practice of only reimbursing for expenses. I am aware of no ethics committee that has endorsed payments,* and of only one research team which offered them (and that was before the consensus against compensation crystallized in 2004). The good news is that there is still time for input: NYSTEM has not explored the issue in depth, and the Ethics Committee will discuss the topic at its next meeting.

HT to The Niche.

Previously on Biopolitical Times:

* The guidelines [PDF] of the International Society for Stem Cell Research do not explicitly endorse compensation for egg providers, but they do recognize that some areas may:

In locales where reimbursement for research participation is allowed, there must be a detailed and rigorous review to ensure that reimbursement of direct expenses or financial considerations of any kind do not constitute an undue inducement.

Feminist scholars on eggs for cloning research

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky on May 30th, 2008

[Image by Concepts for All]

The debate about women's eggs for cloning-based stem cell research is one that we've participated in and tracked here at the Center for Genetics and Society. Several comprehensive articles on the topic by feminist scholars and advocates are now available online:

Center for American Progress on GM Embryos

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on May 29th, 2008

Sirine Shebaya at the Center for American Progress's Science Progress blog commented on the recent disclosure of the first genetically modified human embryos. While I missed her post a couple weeks ago, it remains worth citing now:

The potential rewards of this work are immense, but we should not scoff at the possibility that this kind of research could ultimately lead to the technology for creating babies with preselected mental or physical traits....

Scientists constantly emphasize that we are still a long way away from children with preselected traits. But declining to regulate research that could lead us to a point where such choices are possible is troubling precisely because we cannot expect individual scientists to censor themselves based on a concern for societal consequences. This is arguably not their job. Remember division of labor and how it increases efficiency? Scientists have a mission to explore and pursue the most promising avenues of research within the bounds of government regulations. Policy makers and legislators have a mission to figure out where the lines ought to be drawn. Whether we like the idea of “designer babies” or not, their possibility would entail quite serious public and societal consequences. Decisions about the issue have to be made not simply at the level of individual scientists and research labs, but at the public, societal level, particularly given the extent of moral disagreements on the matter.
The Science Progress blog covers a wide range of topics, and is worth checking out - particularly recent posts on the new genetic nondiscrimination law and conflicts of interest in medicine.

In the News this Week

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on May 23rd, 2008

The UK Parliament, debating a bill to overhaul its oversight of assisted reproduction and embryo research, rejected proposed bans on both PGD "saviour siblings" and animal-human hybrid embryos for cloning-based stem cell research.

In contrast, South Korea did ban the hybrids.

Here in the US, President Bush signed a bill to prohibit genetic discrimination into law, while a leading member of Congress spoke of future oversight of stem cell research by the National Institutes of Health.

The former head of a failed pet cloning company and most disgraced and fraudulent scientist in recent memory teamed up to launch a new pet cloning company.

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