Patients endorse key stem cell research

Despite some ethical concerns, most patients are now broadly endorsing stem cell research.

In the case of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are stem cells made from skin or other tissues, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University found patients were largely in favour of participating in iPSC research even if personal benefit was unlikely.

The patients, however, raised concerns about consent, privacy and transparency.

"Bioethicists as well as stem cell researchers and policy-makers have discussed ethical issues at length but till date, we didn't have any systematic information about what patients think about these issues," said Jeremy Sugarman, the Harvey M. Meyerhoff professor of bioethics and medicine at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Unlike human embryonic stem cells, iPSCs are derived without destroying a human embryo. Research with human iPSCs is valuable for developing new drugs, studying disease, and perhaps developing medical treatments, said the study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

According to the study, consent was highly important for patients. Some patients even suggested that proper informed consent could compensate for other concerns they had about privacy, the "immortalisation" of cells and the commercialisation of stem cells.

There was a "strong desire among participants to have full disclosure of the anticipated uses, with some participants wanting to be able to veto certain uses of their cells", the study added.

"The idea that donated cells would potentially live forever was unnerving to some participants," the report stated.

"This study is a first step in getting crucial information about what values are factored into a decision to participate in iPSC research, and what those participants expect from the experience," said Sugarman.

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Patients endorse key stem cell research

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