US National Academies release amended version of guidelines for human stem cell research

12 September 2008

The US National Academies released an amended version of their guidelines for human stem cell research at the beginning of September (see press release). The guidelines were originally published in 2005 to offer a common set of ethical standards for the responsible conduct of research using human stem cells (see previous news). Following the publications of the 2005 guidelines, the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee was established in order to monitor and review them as scientific advances were made in this field. The guidelines were last updated in 2007 and the recent modifications are in order to incorporate research involving induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, these are stem cells produced through re-programming somatic (non-embryonic) cells (see previous news).

Previous versions of the guidelines primarily addressed research involving human embryonic (hES) stem cells. The recent version of the guidelines contains a new section providing guidance on the derivation and use of pluripotent and multipotent stem cells and gives guidance on what level of review is needed for various categories of experiments involving iPS cells. Research involving iPS raise the same ethical and policy issues to those raised by the use of hES in some instances but not others, resulting in the need for differing levels of review.

A number of other brief changes have also been made to other sections of the document, such as the recommendation that institutes should carry out periodic audits of their embryonic stem cell research oversight (ESCRO) committees and make the findings available to the public along with informing them about the types of research they are undertaking. They believe this will encourage better management and instil confidence in the research practices of the institutes. Clarifications were also made to other guidelines, including a better description of what “direct expenses” could be reimbursed to women who donate eggs for research.


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