July 3, 2022

Some stem cell lines unethical, researchers learn

Bush’s fault, says bioethicist
It has
taken American scientists seven years to wake up to the fact that some of their
human embryonic stem cell lines were created without adequate informed consent.
Back in 2001 President Bush authorised government funding for human embryonic
stem cell research on lines which were already in existence. He thought that
there were about 60 of these. However, over time, this figure dwindled to 21.
And now a University of Wisconsin at Madison bioethicist has discovered that
five of these were created unethically.

The
ethically-tainted lines were developed by a Swedish company, Cellartis, and an
American company, Bresagen. (Bresagen was originally Australian and is now
owned by the American company Novocell.) Apart from other defects in the
consent forms, neither company informed couples that the embryos which had been
created for them in IVF clinics would be destroyed in the course of research.
“It didn’t occur to us that we should get the consent forms to look at them,”
an official of the US National Academy of Sciences told Nature News.

The
Bresagen and Cellartis lines are the least used of the 21 authorised lines, but
they have been sent to dozens of researchers. Furthermore, none of the other
lines conformed strictly to government guidelines. Who is responsible for the
embarrassing error? Not surprisingly, there seems to be a bit of
finger-pointing going on. Given the importance of informed consent in stem cell
research, one would have thought that the various bureaucrats and researchers
involved would have double-checked. But some of them now blame – who else? –
the perfidious Bush Administration. “It shows the lengths to which the administration
pushed the [National Institutes of Health] to get as many lines on record as it
could,” says Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist for the Center for American
Progress. “It shows that it’s time to move on.” ~ Nature News, July 28