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Banking on Immortality? Exploring the Stem Cell Supply Chain from Embryo to Therapeutic Application

Glasner, Peter Egon 2005. Banking on Immortality? Exploring the Stem Cell Supply Chain from Embryo to Therapeutic Application. Current Sociology 53 (2) , pp. 355-366. 10.1177/0011392105049545

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This article addresses a number of difficult and controversial issues surrounding the development of stem cell lines from embryonic stem cells derived from unused embryos during IVF treatment. The UK has recently established the world’s first Stem Cell Bank to be a repository for stem cell lines from the UK and elsewhere, and to make them available for use by both academic and commercial laboratories around the world. It will not accept material from embryos specifically created for the purposes of research. However, this novel development poses a number of interesting sociological questions that will be explored in detail. As the stem cell lines are effectively immortal the provenance of any donation will need to be carefully scrutin-ized. How will the required information about whether appropriate informed consent has been obtained, whether the donors are traceable or anonymous, and where any intellectual property rights may reside, or be established? Of particular interest will be the basis for achieving standardization of practice across the variety of stakeholders (laboratories, clinics, patients, pharmaceutical companies, regulatory authorities, etc.) involved. Finally, while the UK has one of the most liberal, but also the most regulated governance structures within which to work, it appears that most of the attention is focused on tissue collection, leaving downstream therapeutic application (which may never materialize) by commercial interests relatively ungoverned. Provenance, standardization and governance in the ‘supply chain’ of embryonic stem cell lines may therefore provide a basis for better understanding the global commodification of ‘life’.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Publisher: Sage
ISSN: 0011-3921
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 01:49

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