Bioethics Blogs

California

A committee of California’s state stem cell agency met on February 4 to consider whether it should fund genetic editing of human embryos, and if so, whether such experiments require any change of its rules or regulations.

Back in 2004, 59% of Californians voted to allocate $3 billion of public money to establish the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), persuaded by promises that stem cell-based cures were imminent, and by frustration about the Bush administration’s restrictions on federal funding of techniques that destroyed human embryos. Now, as CIRM considers whether to underwrite research involving the genetic modification of human embryos, decisions at the federal level are again playing a role. National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said in April 2015 that it won’t fund such research because “altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes….has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed.”

CIRM’s mandate to support research that can’t be federally funded was mentioned several times during the February 4 Standards Working Group meeting. According to CIRM staffer Geoff Lomax, current agency regulations allow research using human embryos, but prohibit their reproductive use. Much of the discussion at the meeting focused on identifying questions that new gene editing techniques raise about the conduct of such research. The resulting list of issues includes whether the research should be funded at all, and if so, how the use of modified embryos to initiate a pregnancy could be prevented. New considerations about informed consent from people donating gametes and embryos for research were also raised.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.