Stem Cell Research Delays In Accessing Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

November 12, 2012

Stem Cell Research Delays In Accessing Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

Its not only legal issues slowing down stem cell research in the United States. In a recent survey of 200 stem cell researchers, four in ten reported tremendous difficulties in gaining access to stem cell lines. Over 25% were completely denied any access to the lines they needed. Without the stem cells, no stem cell research can be done. Stem cell lines are analogous to bloodlines in pedigreed animals. There are over 1,000 different stem cell lines found in human embryos. It is vitally important in stem cell research to use specific stem cell lines to assure of their genetic history and purity. Stem cell lines are made and owned by specific medical laboratories such as at the University of Wisconsin. Stem cell lines were first created in the 1990s. Study Specifics Over 1,400 American scientists working in stem cell research were sent the survey for this study, but only 400 responded. Of that number, 205 specifically worked with human embryonic cells. Many researchers need access to many different lines of stem cells to ensure that their results did not work for just one line but could work for stem cells in general. In contrast, those working with animal stem cells did not encounter many difficulties accessing needed cell lines. The study was funded by the Kauffman Foundation, a private foundation devoted to help support entrepreneurial projects for such diverse areas as clean energy and stem cell research. The full study was published in the December, 2010 issue of “Nature Biotechnology.”

Problems Researchers were asked specifically what problems they were encountering in trying to access stem cell lines. There were four replies that kept popping up:

  • Laboratories that owned particular cell lines refused to send material

  • Denial to approve transfer of stem cell lines from lab to lab

  • Denial of approval to allow use of their stem cell lines by oversight committees

  • Conflict with current federal regulations.

The study also pointed out other problems as stem cell line owners not understanding what the current federal guidelines are and not wanting any other lab to have part of their lines for fear that the other lab will claim ownership of the stem cell line and try to sell it. Because of these conflicts, many stem cell line owners are finding it simpler just to deny all access to their lines. Study Suggestions This was the first study that backed up claims by scientists that all attempts at stem cell research using human embryos were being purposefully blocked. Under current American federal legislation, scientists should be allowed to use human stem cell lines for projects provided that the stem cells were donated to the particular stem cell owners from fertility clinics. Failure to stick to federal regulations could result in a stem cell owner losing federal money or grants. Until 2009, it was illegal in America for federal dollars to support any research using human embryonic stem cells. A fertilized embryo was given the same legal protection as a newborn baby – despite the fact that embryos do not have nerves and cannot feel pain. The study suggests that policymakers should not try to be scientists and encourage studies that could potentially save countless millions of suffering lives.

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