48 posts categorized "Ethical, legal and social issues"

October 05, 2011

Unconstrained thinking: the link between computer chips and clinical trials

by Drew Lyall

The World Stem Cell Summit taking place this week in Pasadena, California, occupies a unique place in the stem cell calendar. The summit brings together patient advocates, policy makers, industry and scientists from around the world to take stock of progress in the field; to discuss common political, regulatory, financial and scientific barriers to therapies reaching the clinic; and, to actively collaborate on moving efforts forward.

One of the joys of this meeting is that is usually includes a thought-provoking keynote talk from an icon outside of the field, but with a deep personal interest in its success. This year's keynote came from Andy Grove, who founded Intel Corporation in 1968, and in various roles including Chief Scientist, President & CEO and Chairman grew the company to the multi-billion dollar behemoth it is today, ranking right along side alongside Microsoft, Google, Apple and now Facebook as one of the giants of the Information Age.

In 1999, Grove was also diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

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September 29, 2011

The skinny on stem cells and weight loss

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September 21, 2011

Should the fight against bogus stem cell therapies be turned back to the lab?

by Lisa Willemse

This morning's news scan turned up yet another sad tale about the dangers of unproven stem cell therapies and a warning to consumers to once again be skeptical of the claims made by the many unscrupulous clinics operating abroad. For the most part, the article echoes repeated calls made on this blog and numerous other sources, including the ISSCR's Closer Look at Stem Cells, to draw more attention to the issue of "stem cell tourism" in hopes of reducing the numbers of patients paying for such potentially harmful treatments.

Interestingly, I also had an email in my inbox today that contained a recently published paper in EMBO reports that addresses the same topic, albeit in a very different fashion. The authors of the paper, Zubin Master and David Resnik, argue that stem cell scientists could do more to curb stem cell tourism in the face of the questionable success gained from such public education initiatives such as Closer Look at Stem Cells. In fact, the authors suggest that in the case of stem cell tourism, a successful strategy requires the active involvement of scientists.

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September 08, 2011

A researcher’s guide to stem cell ethics

Ethicswebsitescreenshot While ethical considerations can sometimes appear to take a back seat to lab results within the world of research, they are an integral part of any successful project -– or project proposal. Stem cell research is no exception –- in fact, given the vibrant and, at times, controversial history of this field, stem cell research has been used as an example of best practices in cross-disciplinary research, which includes ethics.

Despite this integration of ethics within stem cell research, for most lab researchers, it’s not always obvious where they ought to be applied. Recently, the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia, led by Dr. Michael McDonald, developed a stem cell ethics web site that can be used by Canadian and international researchers and trainees. The site is a useful starting point on the ethical aspects of stem cell research and presents a huge array of topics from the ethical use of tissues to the commercialization of stem cell research. For those new to the field, the site can answer questions about the ethics of publishing your work, the ethical review process, or the protection of animal and human subjects.

The content of site, as well as its various functions, reflect the needs and perspectives of stem cell community members. These views were determined through an extensive two-year ethics needs assessment that sought to identify ethical issues regarding stem cell research by drawing feedback from those actively involved in the field in Canada. As part of the assessment, the research team completed interviews, focus groups and an online survey with trainees, principal investigators, research ethics board members, and governance experts from across Canada. All results were analyzed to identify significant themes and topics that were then used to inform the web site content. The final validated list of 13 themes are the ones that appear on the site.

 

July 28, 2011

Cord blood - $27.80 per click!

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July 18, 2011

Could stem cells be a solution to organ harvesting and donation?

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May 19, 2011

Pull your heads out of the sand: Young scientists need to be policy aware

by David Kent

OstrichXSmall In an article I wrote last month on Nature magazine’s "The Future of the PhD" series, I highlighted a thought from Steven Running (Forest Ecologist extraordinaire) who compared today’s PhD student to those going through the system with him in the 1970s:

“The modern PhD student needs to be much more policy aware, because society has many environmental problems to solve, and not much time.”

While Professor Running was mostly speaking about climate change policy and his own research area, his point about being equipped to handle the attention of the public is well taken, especially in this age of hyper-information exchange. Today’s graduate students and young investigators need to be policy aware and the field of stem cells is a great example where the highly successful laboratory heads often find themselves in policy advising and public relations situations.

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May 17, 2011

Stem cell technology development gets cold shoulder from European Advocate General

by Paul Krzyzanowski

Protecting inventions arising from publicly funded research is a polarizing issue for many scientists and the general public. One perspective views all the fruits of publicly-funded research as public domain, while another believes that same knowledge must be turned into products by entrepreneurship and private sector investment. It’s a tricky dilemma with no clear answer. In the stem cell research field, problems of ethics complicate matters further, particularly when it comes to human embryonic stem cells. 

In Europe, the Advocate General M. Yves Bot recently released a recommendation for a legal ruling that may result in severe restrictions on patentability of inventions using human stem cells.

Naturally, the research field opposes such restrictions on research and the implementation of knowledge. An open letter was recently published in Nature (Also available here for Open Access) and the ISSCR has also made a statement on this matter. For those interested, the European Advocate General’s nearly 8000-word Opinion Statement is available online, in addition to the European Court of Justice’s press release.

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May 02, 2011

US Appeal Court reinstates Obama’s funding policy on stem cell research

by Ubaka Ogbogu

A few months ago I wrote about a temporary injunction (ban) issued by United States federal district court judge Royce C. Lamberth on federal funding for research on human embryonic stem cell lines derived from supernumerary IVF embryos. Subsequently, at the request of the federal government, a U.S. appeal court suspended the injunction pending a full review of the case. On April 29, 2011, the same appeal court permanently overturned the injunction and in accordance with customary legal process, sent the case back to the Judge Lamberth for a full hearing. This means that unlike the initial injunction, which was ordered based on a preliminary hearing of the case, Judge Lamberth is obliged to hear and decide the case on its merits following full submissions of facts and arguments by the parties. Thus, while the federal government may continue to fund the affected research, the case is far from over. Also, any decision issued following a full hearing of the case can be appealed.   

As I argued in my previous posts, and as is obvious from the alternating judgments and the possibility of further appeals, the court system is not the proper venue for shaping and setting science policy. A more stable approach would be for the U.S. Congress to settle the matter definitively by promulgating comprehensive policies regarding hESC research. This is the approach taken by the Canadian government, and despite a recent successful court challenge against aspects of Canada’s embryo research legislation, a fairly stable, albeit (in my opinion) unsatisfactory, policy regime remains. 

April 27, 2011

Integrating stem cell technologies into health care: It’s time to get our priorities straight

by Ubaka Ogbogu

While preparing a consulting report on ethical issues associated with priority setting (a.k.a. resource allocation, rationing) in the stem cell research context, I was surprised to find that there are no published Canadian studies of priority-setting matters pertaining specifically to stem cell research or stem cell-based technologies. A search of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research grants database produced 47 research projects (concluded and ongoing) on priority-setting issues, but none focused on the (potential) integration of stem cell technologies into health care (Note: see update at bottom). Emerging biotechnologies are not well represented either; I found only a 2004 study of priority setting for genetic services led by Fiona Miller and Rosanna Weksberg and a 2003 study on a similar topic by Mita Giacomini.

Experts generally agree that new and cutting edge health care technologies give rise to acute issues of priority setting. This is because such technologies often emerge at high cost (in a bid to recoup research and development expenses), and corresponding high public demand places significant constraints on the resources needed to integrate them into health care. Stem cell therapies will likely follow this trend, and considering the interplay of revolutionary promise and persistent controversy attending the field, may even generate novel priority-setting challenges for health care decision makers.

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