Patenting Human Genes and Stem Cells
Enca Martin-Rendon and Derek J. Blake
Affiliation: Stem Cell Research Laboratory, NHS Blood and Transplant, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford, OX3 9BQ, UK.
Keywords: Human genes, human stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells, embryonic stem cells, gene transfer, nuclear transfer, patents
Cell lines and genetically modified single cell organisms have been considered patentable subjects for the last two decades. However, despite the technical patentability of genes and stem cell lines, social and legal controversy concerning their ‘ownership’ has surrounded stem cell research in recent years. Some granted patents on stem cells with extremely broad claims are casting a shadow over the commercialization of these cells as therapeutics. However, in spite of those early patents, the number of patent applications related to stem cells is growing exponentially. Both embryonic and adult stem cells have the ability to differentiate into several cell lineages in an organism as a result of specific genetic programs that direct their commitment and cell fate. Genes that control the pluripotency of stem cells have been recently identified and the genetic manipulation of these cells is becoming more efficient with the advance of new technologies. This review summarizes some of the recent published patents on pluripotency genes, gene transfer into stem cells and genetic reprogramming and takes the hematopoietic and embryonic stem cell as model systems.
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