On 8th November, 2007 the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Department of Biotechnology that has finalized extensive guidelines for embryonic stem cell research after five years of discussion submitted them to the Union health ministry. These guidelines have been prepared for public debate. It envisages two committees: a National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy and an Institutional Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy.
Earlier there was a “Ethical guidelines for Biomedical Research on HumanSubjects” issued by the ICMR in October, 2000. In 2004, ICMR had prepared a Draft Guidelines for Stem Cell Research/Regulation in India that has noted sources of stem cells as follows:
i) Adult stem cell : Derived from peripheral blood, tissue or bone marrow
ii) Cord Blood Cell : Derived from placenta
iii) Embryonal stem cells: Derived either from blastocysts or foetal tissues
Meanwhile, on 5 November, 2007, Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Science & Technology laid the foundation stone for nation’s first Clinical Research Facility (CRF) for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine (CRF) on a five-acre site at Uppal in Hyderabad by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) along with Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences. The Minister revealed that in aspects of embryonic and adult stem cell research more than 40 institutions and hospitals in country are involved and a Bill is planned to be introduced to provide incentives or 30 per cent of license fee as royalty to scientists to encourage them for research.
It is noteworthy that so far human cloning is banned everywhere. The UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning, by which Member States were called on to adopt all measures necessary to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life on 8th March, 2005 by a vote of 84 in favour to 34 against, with 37 abstentions. World opinion is divided on the possibilities of therapeutic cloning. India is on the side of the partial ban.
It is significant to note that India had voted against the UN Declaration. However, the immediate issue facing the Indian policymakers is embryonic stem cell research that includes harvesting stem cells from embryos in order to treat diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, or diabetes, or even cancer, destroy, in the present state of technology, the embryos from which the cells are taken.Stem cells are obtained from foetuses, embryos, the umbilical cord and bone marrow.
Countries representing about 3.5 billion people have a permissive or flexible policy on human embryonic stem cell research and all have banned human reproductive cloning.
Can the logic of scientific progress be barred by concerns that are social and ethical in the matter of stem cell research?
Is it not always possible that a banned activity will go underground?
Should possibility of abuse prevent research leading to healing and greater knowledge?
Note: The Draft Guidelines for Stem Cell Research/Regulation in India were prepared by the Expert Group Members and Drafting Committee as mentioned below:
Expert Group Members
1. Dr. P.N. Tandon, New Delhi Chairman
2. Dr. S.S. Agarwal, ACTREC, Mumbai
3. Dr. N.K. Mehra, AIIMS, New Delhi
4. Dr. Dipika Mohanty, IIH, Mumbai
5. Dr. Y.N. Rao, DGHS, New Delhi
6. Ashwini Kumar, DCGI, New Delhi
7. Dr. Narayan Swamy, Dy. DCGI, New Delhi
8. Dr. Hari Gopal, DST, New Delhi
9. Dr. T.S. Rao, DBT, New Delhi
10. Dr. Alka Sharma, DBT, New Delhi
11. Dr. C.M. Habibullah, DCMC & Allied Hospitals, Hyderabad
12. Dr. U.V. Wagh, NCCS, Pune
13. Dr. Vinod Raina, AIIMS, New Delhi
14. Dr. Vineeta Salvi, KEM, Mumbai
15. Dr. Satish Kumar, CCMB, Hyderabad
16. Dr. G.R. Chandak, CCMB, Hyderabad
17. Dr. Ambika Nanu, AIIMS, New Delhi
18. Dr. S.G.A. Rao, Reliance, Mumbai
1. Dr. A.N. Bhisey, CRI, Mumbai Chairman
2. Dr. U.V. Wagh, NCCS, Pune
3. Dr. D. Mohanty, IIH, Mumbai
4. Dr. P.B. Seshagiri, IISc, Bangalore
5. Dr. M.G. Deo, Moving Academy, Pune
6. Dr. V. Salvi, KEM, Mumbai
7. Dr. S.S. Agarwal, ACTREC, Mumbai
8. Dr. K. Ghosh, IIH, Mumbai
9. Dr. V. Muthuswamy, ICMR, New Delhi Member Secretary
- ▼ November (6)