International ethics for stem cells

An expert group has established international guidelines for stem cell research. "I am very pleased that this was possible," says Norwegian member of the group Jan Helge Solbakk.
Among the main topics in the new guidelines are: prohibition of reproductive cloning of humans, international regultations of the rights of donors, supervision of all research on human stem cells, and equal access to research material for all serious stem cell researchers.

The international expert group has established a website for everyone to read the guidelines and download templates for agreements between researchers and between researchers and donors. The ISSCR (International Embryonic Stem Cells Guidelines Task Force) consists of representatives of 14 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. The members represent different cultures and scientific fields.

"At first the members had different opinions in many of the questions," says Jan Helge Solbakk, Norwegian member of the goup, representing the universities of Oslo and Bergen, to the website "I must say that I am very pleased that this was possible, particularly considering that we were mostly only able to communicate via e-mail and telephone. Imagine 26 members discussing at the same time on one telephone line," Solbakk says.

"International research ethics often build on Western cultural, political and religious traditions. Contrarily, the front researchers in stem cells are often Asian, and belong to completely different traditions."