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Thread: Private Stem Cell Donation

  1. #1

    Private Stem Cell Donation

    Hi Wise,
    My two neices(sisters,their mother is my older sister)have had their 1st child through in-vitro fertilization. They have offered me their embryos after each has 1 more child. Do you know how long the frozen embryos will be viable for me? Are the embryos useful to me if the embryos are not mine? Have you heard of anyone to date starting the stem cell process privately, and if so how long does the process take? Has a human had them implanted at the site of spinal injury that you know of?
    Thanks
    Claire

  2. #2
    Claire,

    I wish I knew the answer to your question. At the present, there is no law against a private person or company utilizing frozen embryos for their stem cells. NIH, however, is forbidden to fund any research utilizing frozen embryos or cells obtained from such embryos after August 9. However, there is, to my knowledge, no prohibition of such work by an individual or company.

    The main problem is that it is expensive to maintain frozen embryos and it costs millions of dollars and years to extract and characterize stem cell lines from embryos. I do not know of any U.S. source of human embryonic stem cells that are available for transplantation into humans even if a doctor wanted to do such a procedure. There is probably some federal law in place that criminalizes import of human stem cells for therapeutic purposes from other countries. Perhaps some legal-minded people on this forum can find that out. I can't imagine that there is a big loophole like that in the laws. In any case, if it becomes a widespread practice, I suspect that Congress will undoubtedly enact legislation to prevent this from happening, probably placing it under the jurisdiction of the FDA.

    Can an academic laboratory (i.e. situated in a university) extract the stem cells from an embryo for you? I don't think that any academic laboratory would be willing to risk their federal funding to do this. Coincident with President Bush's announcement on August 9 that NIH would not fund any embryonic stem cell research on cells extracted after August 9, NIH sent out a bulletin to academic laboratories saying that no laboratory that is even partially funded by NIH funds would be allowed to do such research. In other words, a university would have to create a separate laboratory that is completely privately funded to carry out such work. In August, UCSF announced that they were going to move all human embryonic stem cell research laboratories off campus. This has had quite a dampening effect on the field and I suspect that it would be difficult or impossible for you to convince a major stem cell research laboratory to do it.

    Are there any companies that might be willing to do it? I don't know. I suspect that most stem cell companies do not have enough resources to do so.

    In terms of viability of frozen embryos... most in vitro fertilization clinics are reluctant to use embryos that are frozen for more than 3 years or even 2 years. However, this is based on the suspicion that there would be an increased incidence of abnormal development of such embryos. I suspect that frozen embryos can be used for stem cell production after longer periods of freezing. However, there has simply not been sufficient experience with older frozen embryos for there to be any data indicating how long one can wait.

    Wise.

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