Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation | Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research
A Brief History of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation
The Foundation was formed in 1996 as a Massachusetts Public Charity to support research that could not be done in major biomedical research institutions in Massachusetts for political reasons. By the year 2000, the need for the Foundation's independent, non-federally funded research laboratory expanded to include human stem cell research.
A Brief History
The Foundation was formed in 1996 through the efforts of men
and women whose lives were altered by blood products tainted with the AIDS
virus (Human Immunodeficiency
Virus, HIV) and Hepatitis C virus. Faced with unprecedented disease obstacles,
the men and women insisted that biomedical technology be developed to fight
their infections, and allow them to conceive children of their own. Because
they were relentless and insisted that the National Institutes of Health fund
research on their diseases, nearly two dozen anti-viral drugs were developed
in less than a decade. For the first time in history, two virus epidemics (AIDS
and Hepatitis C) are being fought with drugs instead of vaccines.
In sharp contrast, research to ensure the safety of conception
by assisted reproductive technologies in general was not funded by the National
of Health because of the U.S. Congress decisions in 1996 and 1998 that research
on fertilized human eggs "...is meritorious and should be done for society...,
but will not be funded by taxpayer dollars."
For this reason, the men and women themselves raised the money
to fund the
Program of Assisted Reproduction. Within two years, Foundation scientists developed technology to protect against virus transmission at conception. As a result,
Baby Ryan was born in 1999 to a healthy Mom and a Dad with hemophilia who was
infected with Hepatitis C and HIV by tainted blood factors. (see the story
by Stephen Smith, Minnesota Public Radio at www.americanradioworks.org/features/fertility_race/part5/)
With the help of eight collaborating clinics, twenty nine more babies were
safely born to couples with infectious disease infertility by January, 2004. All babies and mothers are infection-free. The success of the Foundation's Special
Program of Assisted Reproduction demonstrates
the speed and efficiency with which public charities can bring about biomedical
Although originally criticized for its pioneering work to assist couples with infectious diseases safely conceive, the Foundation received a Prize Paper award from the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in 2007 (ASRM Prize Paper (pdf)). As of the end of 2007, the number of collaborating clinics had grown to 31, with 74 babies born, all Moms and babies testing free of disease, and as of January, 2010, the number of collaborating clinics has grown to 62 and the number of babies born to 121.
Stem Cell Research with Human Eggs
Stem cell therapy could transform medical treatments
for "incurable" diseases such as spinal cord injury, heart failure,
Parkinson's disease, kidney failure, retinal degeneration, and diabetes. (FAQ's
about stem cells). The confusion surrounding "human embryonic
stem cells" and "human
therapeutic cloning" research has led to strong negative public debate.
This has strengthened the will of Congress and President Bush to not allow
the National Institutes of Health to fund research on either fertilized human
human eggs used to develop stem cells.
In 2001 the Foundation implemented a
program for recruiting women willing to donate their eggs for stem cell research.
The goal is to take
advantage of scientific advances that lead to activation of eggs that have
not been exposed to sperm. With more research it will be possible to derive
stem cells from unfertilized eggs, thus avoiding both ethical and moral
controversies, as well as the tissue compatibility problems associated with
deriving stem cells
from fertilized human eggs. The guidelines for the donor program were originally
developed by the Ethics Advisory Board for Advanced Cell Technology (www.advancedcell.com)
chaired by Dr. Ronald Green, Dartmouth College. Dr. Ann Kiessling, Bedford
Research Foundation director, was a founding member of Advanced Cell Technology's
Advisory Board. Some of the work of that board was reported in the Hastings
Center Report in June, 2002 (www.thehastingscenter.org).
The goal of the Foundation's egg donor program is to safely promote research
to derive stem cells (guidelines). Because the Foundation
has no financial stake in the outcome
of the research, the health and safety of the egg donors is the primary consideration. "Human Eggs: the Need, the Risks, the Politics," The Burrill Stem Cell Report (pdf)
Eggs obtained through the Foundation's Egg Donor Program
for Dr. Jose Cibelli's research team at Advanced Cell Technology allowed
the development of
activating human eggs two ways: artificially, termed parthenogenesis, and following
transplantation of nuclei from other cells, termed nuclear transplantation,
An early report of the work appeared in the Journal
of Regenerative Medicine in the fall of 2001. Although no human
stem cell lines were obtained as a result of the research reported in 2001,
and the principle was proven that human eggs could respond to laboratory manipulations
in ways developed for animal eggs, including monkeys.
To continue to move the work forward, Bedford Research Foundation launched
a fund-raising campaign for human embryonic stem cell research. Major contributors
and Diane Naylor of Pennsylvania, in addition to dozens of others.
The contributions funded more experiments designed to solve the problems
associated with the nuclear transplant technology. Because of the screening
and medical procedures put in place to protect women donating eggs for research,
each egg donor cycle carries a price tag of $25,500.
egg donor program for stem cell research was suspended pending new funding/research
partners. BSCRF has an active pool of dedicated women willing
to undergo egg donation for stem cell research when funding is available. In 2005, Drs. Cibelli and Kiessling collaborated with a clinical team in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to conduct the first studies of parthenogenetically activating human eggs that had been cryo-preserved. The work was published in 2007 ("Human parthenogenetic blastocysts derived from
noninseminated cryopreserved human oocytes" DeFried (pdf)) Foundation scientists are currently carrying out detailed molecular biology studies of gene expression in activated eggs to improve the efficiency of stem cell derivation from unfertilized eggs (parthenotes) collected from pre-menopausal women in need of stem-cell therapy, as well as for other tissue-matched patients.
Because BSCRF is privately funded, BSCRF scientists can
take advantage of the more recently described lines of human embryonic stem
The goal is to develop the laboratory methods
to generate cells with characteristics of human eggs
from human embryonic stem cells. The human egg-like cells may be a valuable,
safe source of cells for the production of stem cells from parthenotes
and nuclear transplant technology (FAQs). For additional details,
see Stem Cell Research.
In 2007, Foundation scientists began experiments to derive pluripotent stem cells from biopsies of human testis. They are using mouse testis as a model system. When successful, pluripotent stem cells from testis will provide stem cells for men, as well as for other tissue-matched patients. This work is continuing in 2010 with testis biopsies from men.
The research to improve the safety of reproduction by
HIV-infected men led to novel approaches for diagnosing other male reproductive
such as diseases of the prostate. Several research programs are underway, including
new ways to detect other infections, such as bacteria, in semen specimens.
These new approaches could lead to rapid advances in understanding and diagnosing
of the prostate, including prostatitis and prostate cancer. Download our Fact Sheet to get a quick
overview of the Foundation.
At no time in the history of biomedical research
has private funding been more important.
The current administration has banned
federal research support of new lines of pluripotent stem
Thus, although several
states have voted in favor of pluripotent ("embryonic"), the moratorium
on federal funding means that not only will stem cell research involving human
eggs be entirely dependent on private funding, so will
research to improve the safety and efficiency of assisted reproduction for
the tens of
thousands of women undergoing fertility treatments each year, and the babies
that result. This need applies to all couples, including those with sexually
transmissible diseases, seeking medical assistance in achieving pregnancy.
Of particular interest to the Foundation
is to raise funds to help offset the costs of family building by the men
with hemophilia that were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C by tainted clotting
With respect to prostate research, budgetary crises
have stalled the increases in biomedical research funds allocated by
in diagnosing and understanding diseases of the male reproductive tract will
not receive federal funding for a few years. The rapid success of the SPAR
program indicates similar rapid advances may be possible through private
funding of Bedford
Research Foundation scientists.
The Foundation is responding to the lack of federal research support in urgent
areas of stem cell development, novel prostate disease diagnostics, and
In Vitro Fertilization, by sponsoring educational activities and raising
The Foundation is seeking trustees, benefactors, and fundraisers
these urgent goals.
Bedford Stem Cell
Research Foundation Headquarters
PO Box 1028
Bedford, MA 01730
260 Elm Street, Suite 106
Somerville, MA 02144