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NIH Stem Cell Guidelines Should Be Modified, UCSF Team Reports
Date:2/18/2010

A UCSF team, led by bioethicist Bernard Lo, MD, recommends that the National Institutes of Health ethics guidelines for embryonic stem cell research be modified to better protect the rights of individuals donating egg or sperm to patients undergoing in vitro fertilization.

(Vocus) February 18, 2010 -- A UCSF team, led by bioethicist Bernard Lo, MD, recommends that the National Institutes of Health ethics guidelines for embryonic stem cell research be modified to better protect the rights of individuals donating egg or sperm to patients undergoing in vitro fertilization.

The recommendation is reported in the February 19, 2010 issue of Science.

Third parties frequently donate sperm and egg, or “gametes,” for patients attempting to create embryos in the in vitro fertilization clinic.

Under current practice in the United States, gamete donors sign a form giving the IVF patient unrestricted legal authority to determine how to dispose of any embryos that may be leftover following fertility treatments. Donor banks and IVF clinics are not required to brief gamete donors about the various options for disposition, which include donating the embryos for stem cell research, thereby enabling scientists to derive new human embryonic stem cell lines; discarding the embryos, or donating them to other IVF patients.

While many state, national, and international scientific committees and agencies have recommended that third-party gamete donors give official “informed consent” for stem cell research with embryos remaining after infertility treatment, the NIH did not stipulate this requirement in its guidelines issued in March 2009. As these guidelines determine which human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines may be studied under NIH research grants -- which are expected to play a growing role in funding stem cell research -- the ethical implications are significant
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