Stem-cell research offers tremendous promise for biomedicine. It also raises vexing ethical and policy challenges. It can involve the destruction, creation and modification of human embryos, and has led to the premature marketing and use of unproven therapies.
On 12 May, in response to scientific progress and evolving ethical concerns, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) issued updated and extended guidelines for work involving the manipulation of stem cells and the translation of that work into medical therapies. The ISSCR is an independent non-profit organization that was established in 2002 to provide a forum for communication and education in the emerging field of stem-cell research and regenerative medicine.
The revised ISSCR guidelines provide a model of self-regulation for other potentially contentious research areas. Today’s science engages many different actors: researchers, taxpayers, regulators, journals, sponsors, industries and, often, patients. Meanwhile, manuscripts, protocols, tissues and even patients routinely cross national boundaries. In this landscape, different stakeholders need to be confident that their interests will be protected when they collaborate with parties who might have differing views or goals. International guidelines are better positioned than national laws to help ensure protection.