Stem Cell Rules Tackle Human Embryo Editing

A set of international stem cell guidelines recommends that oversight committees at research institutions oversee all research on embryos.

May 17, 2016
Bob Grant

WIKIMEDIA, NISSIM BENVENISTYThe International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) released an update last week (May 12) to its guidelines, calling for research institutions to construct oversight committees to handle stem cell and embryo research conducted by their scientists. The move appears to be an attempt to get out in front of federal regulations that may restrict or complicate genome editing in human embryos.

“Self-regulation is the best form of regulation,” Charles Murry, a bioengineer at the University of Washington in Seattle and a member of the committee that updated the guidelines, told Nature. “The biomedical community is best poised to strike the balance between rapid progress and safe, ethical research practice.”

The ISSCR has previously revised its stem cell research guidelines, but the latest update is the first to include all science involving human embryos, including the hot field of precision genome editing. The authors of the latest guidelines apply some of the same review procedures to genome editing in human embryos as it suggests for research that use human embryos to create stem cell lines for studies.

The new guidelines also include a section on the effective communication of stem cell science and medicine. “This is an issue that’s getting more and more attention,” Timothy Caulfield, a health law professor at the University of Alberta and coauthor of the new section in the updated guidelines, told Bloomberg BNA. “It’s particularly significant to stem cell research because it’s a field that’s received just so much attention.”

The new guidelines also maintain a broadly observed moratorium on growing human embryos beyond 14 days.