Wednesday, April 27, 2005
From the NAS: April 26 -- To ensure that human embryonic stem cell research is conducted responsibly and in an ethical manner, the National Academies have developed guidelines for such research. The new report says that institutions conducting stem cell research should establish oversight committees to make sure the guidelines will be followed.
As reported in The New York Times today, the guidelines developed in response to "a lack of leadership by the federal government." The article describes the key provisions:
The academy's guidelines would impose limits on three kinds of experiment that involve incorporating human embryonic stem cells into animals. Undesired consequences could follow if human cells were to become incorporated into the sex cells or the brains of animals. In the first case, there is a remote possibility that an animal with eggs made of human cells could mate with an animal bearing human sperm. To avoid human conception in such circumstances, the academy says chimeric animals should not be allowed to mate.
A second possible hazard is that the human embryonic stem cells might generate all or most of an animal's brain, leading to the possibility of a human mind imprisoned in an animal's body. Though neuroscientists consider this unlikely, it cannot be ruled out, particularly with animals closely related to people, like monkeys and apes. The academy advises that human embryonic stem cells not be injected into the embryos of nonhuman primates for the time being.
Third, like many previous committees, the academy says human embryos should not be grown in culture for more than 14 days, the time when the first hints of a nervous system appear.
The academy advises that all institutions conducting human embryonic stem cell research set up local committees, including scientific experts and members of the public, to review all experiments. And it says a national committee should be formed to update regulations and relax the constraints if warranted by new evidence.
The academy also says that donors, including women who donate unfertilized eggs, should not be paid.