Stem Cell Service Raises Ethics Issue for Researchers
A San Carlos-based stem cell research company is under scrutiny from some stem cell supporters for profiting from services that rely on stem cell therapies that have not yet been discovered, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
StemLifeLine offers to create "personalized" stem cell lines from unused embryos of fertility clinic clients with the hope that a stem cell therapy may someday be discovered for a specific disease that is afflicting a family member. The company promotes the service as "insurance for the future."
Although no law governs how fertility clients may use their embryos, some stem cell researchers have raised ethical questions about StemLifeLine's business model.
The company charges up to $7,000 to create and freeze the stem cell line, and about $350 annually for storage.
David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, said the company should tell consumers that a new stem cell therapy might not be discovered for 30 or 40 years. He added that the stem cells could become unusable as technology changes.
About 15 families have participated in pilot studies or as paying customers since the company was founded in 2005, according to Ana Krtolica, CEO of StemLifeLine.
Krtolica said that the company informs its clients that it may take years for the discovery of stem cell therapies, adding, "They feel that they are preserving something out of the embryos that will have some use in the future" (Tansey, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/29).