US researchers are not allowed to pay women for egg donation (AJ photo/SPL)
US stem-cell researchers are calling for changes to state laws that prohibit compensating women who donate eggs for research. The laws, in leading stem-cell research states such as Massachusetts and California, are crippling the promising field of ‘therapeutic cloning’ that could produce useful embryonic stem-cell lines for studying various human diseases, they say.

Therapeutic cloning involves transferring the nucleus from an adult human cell into a human egg with the intent of creating stem cells from the resulting embryo. Such cells could potentially serve as a therapy genetically matched to the person who donated the adult cell. Although no one has yet derived these cells, one group has now reported creating cloned human embryos in this way. But the procedure uses many eggs. Researchers say that because many states do not allow women to be paid for their egg donation, potential donors are put off and choose lucrative fertility clinics instead.

It took Kevin Eggan and Douglas Melton, of Harvard University’s Stem Cell Institute, two years and US$100,000 in local advertising to secure a single egg donor (see ‘How close,...