In order to fill a void in federal regulations for human embryonic stem cell research, the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) formulated a set of recommended guidelines for the responsible conduct of human embryonic stem cell research. The formation of institutional stem cell research oversight committees is one of these guidelines. The University of Connecticut/UConn Health established an Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight (ESCRO) Committee in 2006. Its name was changed to the Stem Cell Research Oversight (SCRO) Committee in 2009 to reflect the expansion of its mandate to other types of pluripotent stem cells.
The role of the University of Connecticut/UConn Health’s Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee is to ensure that human embryonic stem cell (hESC) and human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) research is well-justified and that inappropriate and/or unethical research is not conducted. Its mandate is to provide oversight of ethical issues related to the derivation and research use of human stem cell lines at all schools, colleges, campuses, and research arms of the University of Connecticut/UConn Health regardless of the source of funding, and to review all proposals from University of Connecticut/UConn Health investigators funded by the Regenerative Medicine Research Fund. Review by the SCRO committee supplements but does not replace the usual reviews for compliance with federal, state, and local regulations (e.g., reviews by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC), Institutional Review Boards (IRB), Institutional Biological Safety Committees (IBC), etc.).
From a legal perspective, the review and approval of human embryonic stem cell research by a SCRO committee or its equivalent is required by the State of Connecticut. SCRO Committee review and approval of hESC research and some types of other pluripotent stem cell research is also required by the University of Connecticut/UConn Health’s institutional policy. The SCRO Committee facilitates collaboration between researchers across institutions by adopting what are becoming nationally and internationally accepted standards and protects the reputation of the University of Connecticut/UConn Health for its conduct of ethical and responsible research.
At a deeper level, SCRO committees exist to protect both the public interest and the progress of biomedical stem cell research. The ethical mandate of the SCRO committee is to ensure that appropriate respect is given to the value of human life. It does so in part, by striving to ensure that only well-justified stem cell research is approved and that inappropriate research is not conducted. The SCRO committee seeks to promote public confidence and trust that stem cell research will be directed toward improving human well-being, and is worthy of public support.
Research within the scope of SCRO review may not be conducted without prior written approval of the Committee. Failure to comply with oversight policies of the SCRO may result in disciplinary action in accordance with University policies.