New guidelines for embryo and stem cell research

Christine Mummery
Eric Anthony
The authors, President and Director of Policy at ISSCR, provide an overview of the updates and rationale for the changes suggested in the 2021 ISSCR guidelines. The guidelines propose three categories of oversight for stem-cell and embryo research, with new distinctions between restricted research and research considered unethical until further safety considerations are determined. The authors note that the scope of the guidelines includes human embryos and embryo models, organoids, chimeric embryos, mitochondrial replacement techniques, and heritable genome editing. In relation to the 14-day rule, the authors give the impression that ISSCR sought to leave reexamination of the ethical issues in the hands of stakeholders and the broader public. They justify the relaxation of the rule with appeals to both the scientific potential and the possibility of stem-cell derived embryo models to reduce the need for research on human embryos. Overall, the authors conclude that research must be “regularly monitored and oversight revisited to ensure it addresses arising ethical concerns. The guidelines should thus be regularly revisited and adapted” (2021:774).