April 24, 2024

Stem cell institute considers paying for eggs

100 to 200 eggs needed to produce stem cell lines

Dr Alan TrounsonThe Australian head of California’s US$3 billion stem cell institute fears that its research could grind to a halt unless he is authorised to pay women donating eggs. At a recent meeting of the working standards group of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, its president, Dr Alan Trounson, expressed his frustration at having to shelve projects for lack of eggs. He complained to chairman Robert Klein that he is spending "a lot of scientists’ and people’s energy on something that can’t be done. That’s not a very good return for what we want to do for the mission." Dr Trounson told the meeting that animal research suggests that at least 100 eggs and possibly as many as 200 are needed to produce a single stem cell line. "Accessing those number of eggs is no trivial matter," he said.

The backers of the CIRM appear to have assumed that altruistic donations would be sufficient. Not so, according to a prominent stem cell scientist from Harvard. In an vehement address Dr Kevin Eggan told the meeting that "I have spent countless hours stomping around to different disease advocacy groups, tea circles, knitting circles, trying to find anyone and everyone who would donate their oocytes for our experiments… We spent more than $100,000 in advertising in the Boston Globe, in the Boston Herald, in the Boston area papers, in the suburbs of Boston. We have literally pursued every option. We’ve pursued trying to recruit donors from other parts of the United States to come to Boston to donate their oocytes for research. This will not work."

Dr Trounson clearly would like to be able to pay women for donating their eggs. However, this is currently banned under a state law and seems to be discouraged by the wording of Proposition 71, which created the CIRM. One solution is to seek a change in the law, but this will provoke impassioned opposition. As a patient advocate at the meeting commented, "I can tell you that if we were going to go out and spend $3 billion buying eggs from women, I wouldn’t have voted for it." ~  CIRM minutes,
Feb 28
; California
Stem Cell Report