Fertility Center Cites Ethics Concerns in Withdrawal From Global Stem Cell Consortium
The Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco on Monday said it would no longer participate in a global consortium for embryonic stem cell research following ethics concerns regarding human egg donations in South Korea, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15).
Woo Suk Hwang, a South Korean researcher who became the first to clone human embryos for the creation of stem cells, announced last month the creation of the World Stem Cell Foundation, with labs in Seoul, San Francisco and Oxford, England. PFC had planned to recruit women in the San Francisco area to provide eggs for stem cell research (California Healthline, 10/20).
However, Hwang was accused of obtaining egg donations from a subordinate employee and misleading a U.S. collaborator about the source of the eggs, the AP/St. Petersburg Times reports. Scientists and ethicists say collecting eggs from a subordinate employee is unethical because of the potential for coercion.
Hwang on Monday denied the allegations and defended his research (AP/St. Petersburg Times, 11/15).
Philip Chenette, director of PFC, said with the withdrawal of U.S. collaborator Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, "it is impossible for us to establish the ethics of the whole thing."
Schatten ended his 20-year collaboration with Hwang citing "a breach of trust about possible egg-donor recruitment irregularities."
The Chronicle reports that one of Hwang's collaborators was singled out by authorities under a new South Korean law banning commercial trafficking in human eggs.
Other biomedical organizations -- including Stanford University, the University of California-San Francisco and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine -- also said they would not participate in the consortium.
Geoffrey Lomax, a CIRM staff member developing research standards with an advisory group, said international rules might need to be established for conducting stem cell research to make it easier to share information or collaborate on research (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15).