The Niche

Ideas on stem cells: consent, use, nature

Earlier this month, the NIH assembled a working group to decide whether currently existing human embryonic stem cell lines confirm with the spirit of guidelines released on July 7. (See Let the vetting begin ) Much of the assessment will center on informed consent procedures.

Today, Bernard Lo well-known member of that working group has correspondence in Nature regarding how informed consent should be obtained for collecting tissue for creating human induced pluripotent stem cells. In it, Lo and Bruce Conklin, both at the University of California, San Francisco call for scientists to develop basic rules that donors should agree to. Other correspondence from scholars at the University of Sydney calls for informed consent to be local.

Elsewhere, Lee Buckler of the Cell Therapy Blog laments a poll showing that many science-savvy readers (and, apparently writers at Genetic Engineering News) are unaware that adult stem cells are being tested in clinical trials.

In an interview with The Scientist, Arthur Lawler argues that researchers will not be able to home in on a single molecular network of stemness, and so the concept of cells could be more profitably pursued in the context of their own tissues rather than overarching ideas. “It’s a system level property,” Lander says, “so we need to have information about a whole system.”

For more on that see Nature Reports’ commentary, Stem cell: what’s in a name?, and our interview with Irv Weissman, in which he calls for the creation of stem cell departments. Ironically, I’m not sure anyone is fundamentally disagreeing so much as using different words to grope at similar ideas.

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