Guidelines established for stem cell research

May 5, 2005

The National Academies recommended research guidelines for human embryonic stem cells.

The National Academies have recommended new research guidelines for human embryonic stem cells. The guidelines were established to improve the integrity of privately funded stem cell research by encouraging responsible practices, according to the committee that wrote the report.

The authors also recommended that research institutions establish oversight committees to ensure that the new guidelines will be followed.

"The oversight we call for will in many instances set a higher standard than required by existing laws or regulations," said committee co-chair Jonathan D. Moreno, PhD, of the Center for Biomedical Ethics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "And while we were hesitant to recommend another bureaucratic oversight entity, the burden in this case is justified, given the novel and controversial nature of embryonic stem cell research."

According to the guidelines: Donor consent must be obtained before a blastocyst is used to generate stem cells, and donors should be informed that they have the right to withdraw their consent at any point before a stem cell line is derived. Practices for obtaining consent should be scrutinized for potential conflict of interests; for example, researchers proposing to derive stem cells should not influence decisions about creating embryos for fertility treatment.

The guidelines also emphasize that no payments should be made to donors. Blastocysts left over at in vitro fertilization clinics may not be donated for research without consent, and researchers should not ask fertility doctors to create more embryos than necessary for reproductive treatments.