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Standards in stem cell research
Date:7/17/2008

Standards in stem cell research help both scientists and regulators to manage uncertainty and the unknown, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Efforts to standardise practices across different labs is, however, a balancing act where the autonomy of scientists and fragility of living material need to be weighed against the need for comparable data.

The ambition in many quarters to scale up the production of human embryonic stem cells and move towards clinical trials requires that different laboratories are able to produce to a standard quality of cells. Developing common standards in stem cell production is not straightforward as so much is still unknown in this new science.

Professor Andrew Webster and Dr Lena Eriksson of York University interviewed and observed a range of scientists and technicians working in stem cell laboratories in the UK, USA and Sweden.

Accurately describing human embryonic stem cell lines is one way to begin setting standards. A stem cell line is a family of constantly-dividing cells, the product of a single parent group of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are unique in that they have yet to 'decide' which developmental path to choose: they have the ability to turn into almost all human cell types. However each human embryonic stem cell holds the genetic signature of the donor which differs between donors just as people themselves differ. Further the state of a stem cell is by its very nature temporary as it is defined by its ability to develop into many different cell types.

Some scientists argued that as the stem cell cannot be standardised, the process and materials used should be standardised. Currently differences in laboratory practices are thought to result in differences in stem cell lines reflecting the way they are treated rather than an innate quality of the lines themselves. The skills of the laboratory technician also play a key role. But pinpointing
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Contact: Danielle Moore
PressOffice@esrc.ac.uk
44-017-934-13122
Economic & Social Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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