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1.  Knowledge about umbilical cord blood banking among Greek citizens 
Blood Transfusion  2014;12(Suppl 1):s353-s360.
Background
Umbilical cord blood supplies in Greece are not sufficient to meet the high transfusion needs. This study was designed to determine Greeks’ opinion about umbilical cord blood, identify the reasons for the lack of motivation to donate umbilical cord blood and allow experts to establish better recruitment campaigns to enrich the donor pool.
Materials and methods
The attitudes and knowledge about umbilical cord blood of randomly selected Greek citizens (n=1,019) were assessed by means of a standardised anonymous questionnaire. The results were analysed using the χ2test and Spearman’s correlation coefficient.
Results
Forty-eight percent of respondents knew about umbilical cord blood and had full knowledge about what storage/donation offers. Media (35%) and doctors (25%) were the main source of information. The information from the state was considered either inadequate or non-existent by 85% of the responders. Ninety-five percent of the people questioned would like further information regarding umbilical cord blood transplantation and umbilical cord blood storage/donation. Six percent of the respondents who had children and were in favour of umbilical cord blood transplantation, had stored/donated UCB. With regards to future decisions, 84% of the sample would store/donate umbilical cord blood, of whom 57% would keep the umbilical cord blood in a private bank.
Discussion
It was concluded that Greek citizens receive information about umbilical cord blood from both the state and advertising campaigns by the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity. A kind of cooperation between all hospitals and public umbilical cord blood banks would be advisable in order to facilitate access to umbilical cord blood donations.
doi:10.2450/2013.0297-12
PMCID: PMC3934280  PMID: 24120604
umbilical cord blood; umbilical cord blood banking; attitude; knowledge; information
2.  Informed consent for cord blood donation. A theoretical and empirical study 
Blood Transfusion  2011;9(3):292-300.
Background and objectives
Umbilical cord blood (CB) banking and therapeutic use raise several ethical issues: medical indications, legal framework, public versus private biobanks, autologous versus allogeneic use, ownership, commercialisation, quality assurance and many others. Surrogate informed consent is one of the most notable controversial ethical issues. The aim of this study was to analyse and compare informed consent forms for CB collection, storage and use in the 18 accredited biobanks of the Italian Network.
Material and methods
The first part of the article gives a brief overview of the scientific framework, the comparison of allogeneic and autologous use and Italian regulations. In the second part the contents of the consent forms from the 18 Italian biobanks are compared with the “NetCord-FACT International Standards for Cord Blood Collection, Banking, and Release for Administration”.
Results
Most of the Italian consent forms differ significantly from the NetCord-FACT Standards, with regards both to formal and substantial aspects.
Conclusion
Italian forms for CB collection, storage and use need standardisation to meet international criteria.
doi:10.2450/2010.0083-10
PMCID: PMC3136597  PMID: 21251456
cord blood; informed consent; biological specimens banks; transplantation
3.  Ethics and observational studies in medical research: various rules in a common framework 
Background
Research ethics have become universal in their principles through international agreements. The standardization of regulations facilitates the internationalization of research concerning drugs. However, in so-called observational studies (i.e. from data collected retrospectively or prospectively, obtained without any additional therapy or monitoring procedure), the modalities used for applying the main principles vary from one country to the other. This situation may entail problems for the conduct of multi-centric international studies, as well as for the publication of results if the authors and editors come from countries governed by different regulations. In particular, several French observational studies were rejected or retracted by United States peer reviewed journals, because their protocols have not been submitted to an Institutional Review Board/Independent Ethics Committee (IRB/IEC).
Methods
national legislation case analysis
Results
In accordance with European regulation, French observational studies from data obtained without any additional therapy or monitoring procedure, do not need the approval of an IRB/IEC. Nevertheless, these researches are neither exempt from scientific opinion nor from ethical and legal authorization.
Conclusion
We wish to demonstrate through the study of this example that different bodies of law can provide equivalent levels of protection that respect the same ethical principles. Our purpose in writing this paper was to encourage public bodies, scientific journals, and researchers to gain a better understanding of the various sets of specific national regulations and to speak a common language.
doi:10.1093/ije/dyp164
PMCID: PMC2868898  PMID: 19336436
Biomedical Research; legislation & jurisprudence; Ethics Committees, Research; Ethics, Research; France; Helsinki Declaration; Humans; International Cooperation; Legislation, Drug; Multicenter Studies as Topic; ethics; legislation & jurisprudence
4.  Private Cord Blood Banking: Experiences And Views Of Pediatric Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Physicians 
Pediatrics  2009;123(3):1011-1017.
Objective
Private cord blood banks are for-profit companies that facilitate storage of umbilical cord blood for personal or family use. Pediatric hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) physicians are currently best situated to use cord blood therapeutically. We sought to describe the experiences and views of these physicians regarding private cord blood banking.
Participants and Methods
Emailed cross-sectional survey of pediatric HCT physicians in the United States and Canada. 93/152 potentially eligible physicians (93/130 confirmed survey recipients) from 57 centers responded. Questions addressed the number of transplants performed using privately banked cord blood, willingness to use banked autologous cord blood in specific clinical settings, and recommendations to parents regarding private cord blood banking.
Results
Respondents reported having performed 9 autologous and 41 allogeneic transplants using privately banked cord blood. In 36/40 allogeneic cases for which data were available, the cord blood had been collected because of a known indication in the recipient. Few respondents would choose autologous cord blood over alternative stem cell sources for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in second remission. In contrast, 55% would choose autologous cord blood to treat high-risk neuroblastoma, or to treat severe aplastic anemia in the absence of an available sibling donor. No respondent would recommend private cord blood banking for a newborn with one healthy sibling when both parents were of Northern European descent; 11% would recommend banking when parents were of different minority ethnicities.
Conclusions
Few transplants have been performed using cord blood stored in the absence of a known indication in the recipient. Willingness to use banked autologous cord blood varies depending on disease and availability of alternative stem cell sources. Few pediatric HCT physicians endorse private cord blood banking in the absence of an identified recipient, even for mixed-ethnicity children for whom finding a suitably matched unrelated donor may be difficult.
doi:10.1542/peds.2008-0436
PMCID: PMC3120215  PMID: 19255033
Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation; Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplantation; Bioethics
5.  Ethical issues relating to the banking of umbilical cord blood in Mexico 
BMC Medical Ethics  2009;10:12.
Background
Umbilical cord banks are a central component, as umbilical cord tissue providers, in both medical treatment and scientific research with stem cells. But, whereas the creation of umbilical cord banks is seen as successful practice, it is perceived as a risky style of play by others. This article examines and discusses the ethical, medical and legal considerations that arise from the operation of umbilical cord banks in Mexico.
Discussion
A number of experts have stated that the use of umbilical cord goes beyond the mere utilization of human tissues for the purpose of treatment. This tissue is also used in research studies: genetic studies, studies to evaluate the effectiveness of new antibiotics, studies to identify new proteins, etc. Meanwhile, others claim that the law and other norms for the functioning of cord banks are not consistent and are poorly defined. Some of these critics point out that the confidentiality of donor information is handled differently in different places. The fact that private cord banks offer their services as "biological insurance" in order to obtain informed consent by promising the parents that the tissue that will be stored insures the health of their child in the future raises the issue of whether the consent is freely given or given under coercion. Another consideration that must be made in relation to privately owned cord banks has to do with the ownership of the stored umbilical cord.
Summary
Conflicts between moral principles and economic interests (non-moral principles) cause dilemmas in the clinical practice of umbilical cord blood storage and use especially in privately owned banks. This article presents a reflection and some of the guidelines that must be followed by umbilical cord banks in order to deal with these conflicts. This reflection is based on the fundamental notions of ethics and public health and seeks to be a contribution towards the improvement of umbilical cord banks' performance.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-10-12
PMCID: PMC2745420  PMID: 19678958
6.  Public’s attitudes on participation in a biobank for research: an Italian survey 
BMC Medical Ethics  2014;15(1):81.
Background
The creation of biobanks depends upon people’s willingness to donate their samples for research purposes and to agree to sample storage. Moreover, biobanks are a public good that requires active participation by all interested stakeholders at every stage of development. Therefore, knowing public’s attitudes towards participation in a biobank and biobank management is important and deserves investigation.
Method
A survey was conducted among family members of patients attending the outpatient department of our institute for a geriatric or neurological visit, documenting their willingness to participate in a biobank and their views on the legal-ethical aspects of biobank management. Information regarding subjects’ attitudes on biomedical research in general and genetic research in particular was also collected. Participants’ data on biobanks were compared with data previously collected from the Italian ethics committees (ECs) to evaluate the extent to which lay people and ethics committees share views and concerns regarding biobanks.
Results
One hundred forty-five subjects took part in the survey. The willingness to give biological samples for the constitution of a biobank set up for research purposes was declared by 86% of subjects and was modulated by subjects’ education. People in favour of providing biological samples for a biobank expressed a more positive view on biomedical research than did people who were not in favour; attitude towards genetic research in dementia was the strongest predictor of participation. Different from ECs that prefer specific consent (52%) and do not choose the option of broad consent (8%) for samples collection in a biobank, participants show a clear preference for broad consent (57%), followed by partially restricted consent (16%), specific consent (15%), and multi-layered consent (12%). Almost all of the subjects available to contribute to a biobank desire to receive both individual research results and research results of general value, while around fifty per cent of ECs require results communication.
Conclusion
Family members showed willingness to participate in a biobank for research and expressed a view on the ethical aspects of a biobank management that differ on several issues from the Italian ECs’ opinion. Laypersons’ views should be taken into account in developing biobank regulations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-81) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-81
PMCID: PMC4258254  PMID: 25425352
Public attitudes; Biobanks; Genetic research; Bioethics; Ethical policy
7.  Research on ethics in two large Human Biomonitoring projects ECNIS and NewGeneris: a bottom up approach 
Environmental Health  2008;7(Suppl 1):S7.
Assessment of ethical aspects and authorization by ethics committees have become a major constraint for health research including human subjects. Ethical reference values often are extrapolated from clinical settings, where emphasis lies on decisional autonomy and protection of individual's privacy. The question rises if this set of values used in clinical research can be considered as relevant references for HBM research, which is at the basis of public health surveillance. Current and future research activities using human biomarkers are facing new challenges and expectancies on sensitive socio-ethical issues. Reflection is needed on the necessity to balance individual rights against public interest. In addition, many HBM research programs require international collaboration. Domestic legislation is not always easily applicable in international projects. Also, there seem to be considerable inconsistencies in ethical assessments of similar research activities between different countries and even within one country. All this is causing delay and putting the researcher in situations in which it is unclear how to act in accordance with necessary legal requirements. Therefore, analysis of ethical practices and their consequences for HBM research is needed.
This analysis will be performed by a bottom-up approach, based on a methodology for comparative analysis of determinants in ethical reasoning, allowing taking into account different social, cultural, political and historical traditions, in view of safeguarding common EU values. Based on information collected in real life complexity, paradigm cases and virtual case scenarios will be developed and discussed with relevant stakeholders to openly discuss possible obstacles and to identify options for improvement in regulation. The material collected will allow developing an ethical framework which may constitute the basis for a more harmonized and consistent socio-ethical and legal approach. This will not only increase the possibilities for comparison between data generated but may also allow for more equality in the protection of the rights of European citizens and establish trustful relationships between science and society, based on firmly rooted ethical values within the EU legislative framework.
These considerations outline part of the research on legal, socio-ethical and communication aspects of HBM within the scope of ECNIS (NoE) and NewGeneris (IP).
doi:10.1186/1476-069X-7-S1-S7
PMCID: PMC2423456  PMID: 18541073
8.  Promotional Tone in Reviews of Menopausal Hormone Therapy After the Women's Health Initiative: An Analysis of Published Articles 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000425.
Adriane Fugh-Berman and colleagues analyzed a selection of published opinion pieces on hormone therapy and show that there may be a connection between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the tone of such opinion pieces.
Background
Even after the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) found that the risks of menopausal hormone therapy (hormone therapy) outweighed benefit for asymptomatic women, about half of gynecologists in the United States continued to believe that hormones benefited women's health. The pharmaceutical industry has supported publication of articles in medical journals for marketing purposes. It is unknown whether author relationships with industry affect promotional tone in articles on hormone therapy. The goal of this study was to determine whether promotional tone could be identified in narrative review articles regarding menopausal hormone therapy and whether articles identified as promotional were more likely to have been authored by those with conflicts of interest with manufacturers of menopausal hormone therapy.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed tone in opinion pieces on hormone therapy published in the four years after the estrogen-progestin arm of the WHI was stopped. First, we identified the ten authors with four or more MEDLINE-indexed reviews, editorials, comments, or letters on hormone replacement therapy or menopausal hormone therapy published between July 2002 and June 2006. Next, we conducted an additional search using the names of these authors to identify other relevant articles. Finally, after author names and affiliations were removed, 50 articles were evaluated by three readers for scientific accuracy and for tone. Scientific accuracy was assessed based on whether or not the findings of the WHI were accurately reported using two criteria: (1) Acknowledgment or lack of denial of the risk of breast cancer diagnosis associated with hormone therapy, and (2) acknowledgment that hormone therapy did not benefit cardiovascular disease endpoints. Determination of promotional tone was based on the assessment by each reader of whether the article appeared to promote hormone therapy. Analysis of inter-rater consistency found moderate agreement for scientific accuracy (κ = 0.57) and substantial agreement for promotional tone (κ = 0.65). After discussion, readers found 86% of the articles to be scientifically accurate and 64% to be promotional in tone. Themes that were common in articles considered promotional included attacks on the methodology of the WHI, arguments that clinical trial results should not guide treatment for individuals, and arguments that observational studies are as good as or better than randomized clinical trials for guiding clinical decisions. The promotional articles we identified also implied that the risks associated with hormone therapy have been exaggerated and that the benefits of hormone therapy have been or will be proven. Of the ten authors studied, eight were found to have declared payment for speaking or consulting on behalf of menopausal hormone manufacturers or for research support (seven of these eight were speakers or consultants). Thirty of 32 articles (90%) evaluated as promoting hormone therapy were authored by those with potential financial conflicts of interest, compared to 11 of 18 articles (61%) by those without such conflicts (p = 0.0025). Articles promoting the use of menopausal hormone therapy were 2.41 times (95% confidence interval 1.49–4.93) as likely to have been authored by authors with conflicts of interest as by authors without conflicts of interest. In articles from three authors with conflicts of interest some of the same text was repeated word-for-word in different articles.
Conclusion
There may be a connection between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the publication of promotional opinion pieces on menopausal hormone therapy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Over the past three decades, menopausal hormones have been heavily promoted for preventing disease in women. However, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study—which enrolled more than 26,000 women in the US and which was published in 2004—found that estrogen-progestin and estrogen-only formulations (often prescribed to women around the age of menopause) increased the risk of stroke, deep vein thrombosis, dementia, and incontinence. Furthermore, this study found that the estrogen-progestin therapy increased rates of breast cancer. In fact, the estrogen-progestin arm of the WHI study was stopped in 2002 due to harmful findings, and the estrogen-only arm was stopped in 2004, also because of harmful findings. In addition, the study also found that neither therapy reduced cardiovascular risk or markedly benefited health-related quality of life measures.
Despite these results, two years after the results of WHI study were published, a survey of over 700 practicing gynecologists—the specialists who prescribe the majority of menopausal hormone therapies—in the US found that almost half did not find the findings of the WHI study convincing and that 48% disagreed with the decision to stop the trial early. Furthermore, follow-up surveys found similar results.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is unclear why gynecologists and other physicians continue to prescribe menopausal hormone therapies despite the results of the WHI. Some academics argue that published industry-funded reviews and commentaries may be designed to convey specific, but subtle, marketing messages and several academic analyses have used internal industry documents disclosed in litigation cases. So this study was conducted to investigate whether hormone therapy–promoting tone could be identified in narrative review articles and if so, whether these articles were more likely to have been authored by people who had accepted funding from hormone manufacturers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search that identified 340 relevant articles published between July 2002 and June 2006—the four years following the cessation of the estrogen-progestin arm of the women's health initiative study. Ten authors had published four to six articles, 47 authored two or three articles, and 371 authored one article each. The researchers focused on authors who had published four or more articles in the four-year period under study and, after author names and affiliations were removed, 50 articles were evaluated by three readers for scientific accuracy and for tone. After individually analyzing a batch of articles, the readers met to provide their initial assessments, to discuss them, and to reach consensus on tone and scientific accuracy. Then after the papers were evaluated, each author was identified and the researchers searched for authors' potential financial conflicts of interest, defined as publicly disclosed information that the authors had received payment for research, speaking, or consulting on behalf of a manufacturer of menopausal hormone therapy.
Common themes in the 50 articles included arguments that clinical trial results should not guide treatment for individuals and suggestions that the risks associated with hormone therapy have been exaggerated and that the benefits of hormone therapy have been or will be proven. Furthermore, of the ten authors studied, eight were found to have received payment for research, speaking or consulting on behalf of menopause hormone manufacturers, and 30 of 32 articles evaluated as promoting hormone therapy were authored by those with potential financial conflicts of interest. Articles promoting the use of menopausal hormone therapy were more than twice as likely to have been written by authors with conflicts of interest as by authors without conflicts of interest. Furthermore, Three authors who were identified as having financial conflicts of interest were authors on articles where sections of their previously published articles were repeated word-for-word without citation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study suggest that there may be a link between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the publication of apparently promotional opinion pieces on menopausal hormone therapy. Furthermore, such publications may encourage physicians to continue prescribing these therapies to women of menopausal age. Therefore, physicians and other health care providers should interpret the content of review articles with caution. In addition, medical journals should follow the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts, which require that all authors submit signed statements of their participation in authorship and full disclosure of any conflicts of interest.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000425.
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more information on the Womens Health Initiative
The US National Institutes of Health provide more information about the effects of menopausal hormone replacement therapy
The Office of Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on menopausal hormone therapy
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts presents Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts published in biomedical journals
The National Womens Health Network, a consumer advocacy group that takes no industry money, has factsheets and articles about menopausal hormone therapy
PharmedOut, a Georgetown University Medical Center project, has many resources on pharmaceutical marketing practices
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000425
PMCID: PMC3058057  PMID: 21423581
9.  Evaluation of clinical trials by Ethics Committees in Germany - Experience of applicants with the review of requests for opinion of the Ethics Committees - results of a survey among members of the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (VFA) 
The review of requests for a positive opinion of the ethics committees (application procedure) as a requirement to start a clinical trial in Germany has been completely redesigned with the transposition of EU Directive 2001/20/EC in the 12th Amendment of the German Medicines Act in August 2004. The experience of applicants (sponsors, legal representatives of sponsors in the EU and persons or organizations authorized by the sponsors to make the application, respectively) in terms of interactions with the ethics committees in Germany has been positive overall, especially with respect to ethics committee adherence to the statutory timelines applicable for review of requests. However, inconsistencies between ethics committees exist in terms of the form and content of the requirements for application documents and their evaluation.
With the objective of further improving both the quality of applications and the evaluation of those applications by ethics committees, a survey among members of the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (VFA) was conducted from January to April 2008. Based on reasoned opinions issued by the respective ethics committee in charge of the coordinating principal investigator (coordinating ethics committee), the type and frequency of formal and content-related objections to applications according to § 7 of the German Good Clinical Practice (GCP) Regulation were systematically documented, and qualitative and quantitative analyses performed. 21 out of 44 members of the VFA participated in the survey. 288 applications for Phase I–IV studies submitted between January and December 2007 to 40 ethics committees were evaluated.
This survey shows that about one in six applications is incomplete and has formal and/or content objections, respectively, especially those that pertain to documents demonstrating the qualification of the investigator and/or suitability of the facilities. These objections are attributable to some extent to the differing and/or unclear requirements of the individual ethics committees on the content and comprehension of the submission documents. However, applicants also need to pay more attention to the completeness and validity of the submission documents. The majority of content-related objections apply to the patient information and consent documents and study protocols submitted. Applicants on average acted upon only 3 out of 4 objections, for various reasons: the relevant information was already given in the submitted documents, but had not been taken into consideration by the ethics committees; objections were not applicable; objections lacked a legal basis. In such cases the applicants made reference to the specific information already submitted or gave reasons for not acting on the objection. This course of action was accepted by the ethics committees, with few exceptions. The survey sheds light on the existing inconsistencies in the evaluations of applications by the various ethics committees and suggests ways in which the existing constructive dialogue between applicants and ethics committees may provide a basis to further harmonize both the requirements regarding form and content of application documents, and the criteria for evaluation of applications by ethics committees within the legal framework.
doi:10.3205/000066
PMCID: PMC2716553  PMID: 19675747
ethics committees; application procedure; formal and content-related objections; clinical trials
10.  Maternal nutritional status during pregnancy and surma use determine cord lead levels in Karachi Pakistan 
Environmental research  2008;108(1):69-79.
Objectives
To estimate the umbilical cord blood lead levels (BLLs) of Pakistani neonates and to identify determinants for umbilical BLLs.
Methods
We conducted a cross-sectional study of mothers and infants at one of the two obstetric units of two tertiary care hospitals in Karachi during January to August 2005. Information from 540 mothers selected randomly from those registered for delivery was obtained about their pregnancy, diet, and current and past lead exposures. We collected umbilical cord blood for lead levels analyzed using graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry. We computed geometric and arithmetic means. We performed multiple linear regression analysis to identify factors associated with log transformed umbilical cord BLLs. We also performed logistic regression analysis to identify determinants of high lead cord BLLs (≥10μg/dl).
Results
The geometric mean cord BLLs of the neonates was 9.6μg/dl; arithmetic mean (SD) was 10.8 μg/dl (5.7) with a median of 9.7μg/dl and a range of 1.8 μg/dl–48.9μg/dl. Women who reported intake of less than 58.5 mg of elemental iron supplement per day during pregnancy had cord BLL of 10.0μg/dl; in comparison those women who had higher iron intake had lower cord BLL (8.4μg/dl). Those who used surma (an eye cosmetic) daily had higher cord BLL (11.5 μg/dl) as compared to those who used it less frequently (9.4μg/dl). In multivariable linear regression model, higher iron intake, owning a car, and being in 2nd quartile of mid arm circumference were associated with low lead levels while father’s occupation in lead based industry were associated with significantly higher umbilical cord blood lead levels. There was interaction of daily surma use and ethnicity. Geometric mean BLLs were varied among surma users by ethnicity.
Conclusions
Umbilical cord BLLs are high in Karachi, Pakistan in comparison to those in developed countries such as United States. Measures are needed to reduce fetal lead exposure to prevent adverse affect on neurocognitive development. Association of low iron (below RDA of 60 mg per day) with high umbilical cord has implications for strengthening iron supplement intake during pregnancy. Umbilical cord BLLs of differed among surma users by ethnicity.
doi:10.1016/j.envres.2008.06.004
PMCID: PMC2581773  PMID: 18656859
Umbilical cord blood lead levels; iron; surma; socioeconomic status; Pakistan
11.  Research Ethics Capacity Building in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of NIH Fogarty-Funded Programs 2000–2012 
The last fifteen years have witnessed a significant increase in investment in research ethics capacity development throughout the world. We examine nine research ethics training programs that are focused on Sub-Saharan Africa and supported by the US National Institutes of Health. We collected data from grants awards’ documents and annual reports supplemented by questionnaires completed by the training program directors. Together, these programs provided long-term training in research ethics to 275 African professionals, strengthened research ethics committees in 19 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and created research ethics curricula at many institutions and bioethics centers within Africa. Trainees’ leadership resulted in new national systems and policies on research ethics, human tissue storage and export, and methods of monitoring compliance with research ethics guidelines. Training programs adapted to challenges that arose due to varied trainees’ background knowledge in ethics, duration of time available for training, spoken and written English language skills, administrative obstacles, and the need to sustain post-training research ethics activities. Our report showcases the development of awareness of research ethics and building/strengthening of basic research ethics infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, the increasing amount and complexity of health research being conducted in Sub-Saharan Africa suggests the need for continued investment in research ethics capacity development in this region. This paper is part of a collection of papers analyzing the Fogarty International Center’s International Research Ethics Education and Curriculum Development program.
doi:10.1525/jer.2014.9.2.24
PMCID: PMC4280231  PMID: 24782070
bioethics; capacity building; research ethics; Sub-Saharan Africa
12.  Main Report 
Genetics in Medicine  2006;8(Suppl 1):12S-252S.
Background:
States vary widely in their use of newborn screening tests, with some mandating screening for as few as three conditions and others mandating as many as 43 conditions, including varying numbers of the 40+ conditions that can be detected by tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). There has been no national guidance on the best candidate conditions for newborn screening since the National Academy of Sciences report of 19751 and the United States Congress Office of Technology Assessment report of 1988,2 despite rapid developments since then in genetics, in screening technologies, and in some treatments.
Objectives:
In 2002, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) commissioned the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) to: Conduct an analysis of the scientific literature on the effectiveness of newborn screening.Gather expert opinion to delineate the best evidence for screening for specified conditions and develop recommendations focused on newborn screening, including but not limited to the development of a uniform condition panel.Consider other components of the newborn screening system that are critical to achieving the expected outcomes in those screened.
Methods:
A group of experts in various areas of subspecialty medicine and primary care, health policy, law, public health, and consumers worked with a steering committee and several expert work groups, using a two-tiered approach to assess and rank conditions. A first step was developing a set of principles to guide the analysis. This was followed by developing criteria by which conditions could be evaluated, and then identifying the conditions to be evaluated. A large and broadly representative group of experts was asked to provide their opinions on the extent to which particular conditions met the selected criteria, relying on supporting evidence and references from the scientific literature. The criteria were distributed among three main categories for each condition: The availability and characteristics of the screening test;The availability and complexity of diagnostic services; andThe availability and efficacy of treatments related to the conditions. A survey process utilizing a data collection instrument was used to gather expert opinion on the conditions in the first tier of the assessment. The data collection format and survey provided the opportunity to quantify expert opinion and to obtain the views of a diverse set of interest groups (necessary due to the subjective nature of some of the criteria). Statistical analysis of data produced a score for each condition, which determined its ranking and initial placement in one of three categories (high scoring, moderately scoring, or low scoring/absence of a newborn screening test). In the second tier of these analyses, the evidence base related to each condition was assessed in depth (e.g., via systematic reviews of reference lists including MedLine, PubMed and others; books; Internet searches; professional guidelines; clinical evidence; and cost/economic evidence and modeling). The fact sheets reflecting these analyses were evaluated by at least two acknowledged experts for each condition. These experts assessed the data and the associated references related to each criterion and provided corrections where appropriate, assigned a value to the level of evidence and the quality of the studies that established the evidence base, and determined whether there were significant variances from the survey data. Survey results were subsequently realigned with the evidence obtained from the scientific literature during the second-tier analysis for all objective criteria, based on input from at least three acknowledged experts in each condition. The information from these two tiers of assessment was then considered with regard to the overriding principles and other technology or condition-specific recommendations. On the basis of this information, conditions were assigned to one of three categories as described above:Core Panel;Secondary Targets (conditions that are part of the differential diagnosis of a core panel condition.); andNot Appropriate for Newborn Screening (either no newborn screening test is available or there is poor performance with regard to multiple other evaluation criteria).
ACMG also considered features of optimal newborn screening programs beyond the tests themselves by assessing the degree to which programs met certain goals (e.g., availability of educational programs, proportions of newborns screened and followed up). Assessments were based on the input of experts serving in various capacities in newborn screening programs and on 2002 data provided by the programs of the National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center (NNSGRC). In addition, a brief cost-effectiveness assessment of newborn screening was conducted.
Results:
Uniform panel
A total of 292 individuals determined to be generally representative of the regional distribution of the United States population and of areas of expertise or involvement in newborn screening provided a total of 3,949 evaluations of 84 conditions. For each condition, the responses of at least three experts in that condition were compared with those of all respondents for that condition and found to be consistent. A score of 1,200 on the data collection instrument provided a logical separation point between high scoring conditions (1,200–1,799 of a possible 2,100) and low scoring (<1,000) conditions. A group of conditions with intermediate scores (1,000–1,199) was identified, all of which were part of the differential diagnosis of a high scoring condition or apparent in the result of the multiplex assay. Some are identified by screening laboratories and others by diagnostic laboratories. This group was designated as a “secondary target” category for which the program must report the diagnostic result.
Using the validated evidence base and expert opinion, each condition that had previously been assigned to a category based on scores gathered through the data collection instrument was reconsidered. Again, the factors taken into consideration were: 1) available scientific evidence; 2) availability of a screening test; 3) presence of an efficacious treatment; 4) adequate understanding of the natural history of the condition; and 5) whether the condition was either part of the differential diagnosis of another condition or whether the screening test results related to a clinically significant condition.
The conditions were then assigned to one of three categories as previously described (core panel, secondary targets, or not appropriate for Newborn Screening).
Among the 29 conditions assigned to the core panel are three hemoglobinopathies associated with a Hb/S allele, six amino acidurias, five disorders of fatty oxidation, nine organic acidurias, and six unrelated conditions (congenital hypothyroidism (CH), biotinidase deficiency (BIOT), congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), classical galactosemia (GALT), hearing loss (HEAR) and cystic fibrosis (CF)). Twenty-three of the 29 conditions in the core panel are identified with multiplex technologies such as tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) or high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). On the basis of the evidence, six of the 35 conditions initially placed in the core panel were moved into the secondary target category, which expanded to 25 conditions. Test results not associated with potential disease in the infant (e.g., carriers) were also placed in the secondary target category. When newborn screening laboratory results definitively establish carrier status, the result should be made available to the health care professional community and families. Twenty-seven conditions were determined to be inappropriate for newborn screening at this time.
Conditions with limited evidence reported in the scientific literature were more difficult to evaluate, quantify and place in one of the three categories. In addition, many conditions were found to occur in multiple forms distinguished by age-of-onset, severity, or other features. Further, unless a condition was already included in newborn screening programs, there was a potential for bias in the information related to some criteria. In such circumstances, the quality of the studies underlying the data such as expert opinion that considered case reports and reasoning from first principles determined the placement of the conditions into particular categories.
Newborn screening program optimization
– Assessment of the activities of newborn screening programs, based on program reports, was done for the six program components: education; screening; follow-up; diagnostic confirmation; management; and program evaluation. Considerable variation was found between programs with regard to whether particular aspects (e.g., prenatal education program availability, tracking of specimen collection and delivery) were included and the degree to which they are provided. Newborn screening program evaluation systems also were assessed in order to determine their adequacy and uniformity with the goal being to improve interprogram evaluation and comparison to ensure that the expected outcomes from having been identified in screening are realized.
Conclusions:
The state of the published evidence in the fast-moving worlds of newborn screening and medical genetics has not kept up with the implementation of new technologies, thus requiring the considerable use of expert opinion to develop recommendations about a core panel of conditions for newborn screening. Twenty-nine conditions were identified as primary targets for screening from which all components of the newborn screening system should be maximized. An additional 25 conditions were listed that could be identified in the course of screening for core panel conditions. Programs are obligated to establish a diagnosis and communicate the result to the health care provider and family. It is recognized that screening may not have been maximized for the detection of these secondary conditions but that some proportion of such cases may be found among those screened for core panel conditions. With additional screening, greater training of primary care health care professionals and subspecialists will be needed, as will the development of an infrastructure for appropriate follow-up and management throughout the lives of children who have been identified as having one of these rare conditions. Recommended actions to overcome barriers to an optimal newborn screening system include: The establishment of a national role in the scientific evaluation of conditions and the technologies by which they are screened;Standardization of case definitions and reporting procedures;Enhanced oversight of hospital-based screening activities;Long-term data collection and surveillance; andConsideration of the financial needs of programs to allow them to deliver the appropriate services to the screened population.
doi:10.1097/01.gim.0000223467.60151.02
PMCID: PMC3109899
13.  Antenatal melatonin as an antioxidant in human pregnancies complicated by fetal growth restriction—a phase I pilot clinical trial: study protocol 
BMJ Open  2013;3(12):e004141.
Background
Fetal growth restriction complicates about 5% of pregnancies and is commonly caused by placental dysfunction. It is associated with increased risks of perinatal mortality and short-term and long-term morbidity, such as cerebral palsy. Chronic in utero hypoxaemia, inflammation and oxidative stress are likely culprits contributing to the long-term neurological sequelae of fetal growth restriction. In this regard, we propose that melatonin, a powerful antioxidant, might mitigate morbidity and/or mortality associated with fetal growth restriction. Melatonin has an excellent biosafety profile and crosses the placenta and blood–brain barrier. We present the protocol for a phase I clinical trial to investigate the efficacy of maternal oral melatonin administration in women with a pregnancy complicated by fetal growth restriction.
Methods and analysis
The proposed trial is a single-arm, open-label clinical trial involving 12 women. Severe, early onset fetal growth restriction will be diagnosed by an estimated fetal weight ≤10th centile in combination with abnormal fetoplacental Doppler studies, occurring before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Baseline measurements of maternal and fetal well-being, levels of oxidative stress and ultrasound and Doppler measurements will be obtained at the time of diagnosis of fetal growth restriction. Women will then start melatonin treatment (4 mg) twice daily until birth. The primary outcomes are the levels of oxidative stress in the maternal and fetal circulation and placenta. Secondary outcomes are fetoplacental Doppler studies (uterine artery, umbilical artery middle cerebral artery and ductus venosus), fetal biometry, fetal biophysical profile and a composite determination of neonatal outcome. A historical cohort of gestational-matched fetal growth restriction and a healthy pregnancy cohort will be used as comparators.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethical approval has been obtained from Monash Health Human Research Ethics Committee B (HREC12133B). Data will be presented at international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals.
Trial registration number
Clinical Trials, protocol registration system: NCT01695070.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004141
PMCID: PMC3884842  PMID: 24366583
OBSTETRICS
14.  Study of DNA methylation patterns of imprinted genes in children born after assisted reproductive technologies reveals no imprinting errors: A pilot study 
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) including in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) have been shown to be associated with abnormal genomic imprinting, thus increasing the incidence of imprinting disorders such as Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) and Angelman syndrome (AS) in ART-conceived children. Furthermore, a recent study described abnormal DNA methylation in clinically normal children conceived by ART. However, data from different studies are conflicting or inconclusive. This study examined DNA methylation patterns of multiple imprinted genes in children born after ART to primarily evaluate the impact of ART on genomic imprinting. A total of 101 newborns conceived by ART (40 ICSI and 61 IVF) and 60 naturally conceived newborns were involved in our study. After obtaining the approval of the Institutional Ethics Committee, umbilical cord blood was collected from each infant. Genomic DNA was isolated from each blood sample and treated using sodium bisulfite. Subsequently, using methylation-specific PCR (MS-PCR), we analyzed six differentially methylated regions (DMRs) including KvDMR1, SNRPN, MEST, MEG3, TNDM and XIST. Meanwhile, information regarding twin pregnancies, gestational age, and birth weight of the neonates was documented. None of the cases presented with phenotypic abnormalities. Children conceived by ART were more likely to have low birth weight and to be born before term, compared with children conceived spontaneously. However, 7 months to 3 years of clinical follow-up showed that none of the children had clinical symptoms of any imprinting diseases. Furthermore, the MS-PCR results showed that all 161 children had normal DNA methylation patterns at six DMRs despite the different mode of conception. Our data did not indicate a higher risk of DNA-methylation defects in children born after ART. However, further studies using quantitative methods are needed to confirm these results.
doi:10.3892/etm.2011.261
PMCID: PMC3440701  PMID: 22977570
assisted reproductive technology; genomic imprinting; imprinting disorder; DNA methylation
15.  Protocol for a randomised controlled trial of VAsopressin versus Noradrenaline as Initial therapy in Septic sHock (VANISH) 
BMJ Open  2014;4(7):e005866.
Introduction
Vasopressin is an alternative vasopressor in the management of septic shock. It spares catecholamine use but whether it improves outcome remains uncertain. Current evidence suggests that it may be most effective if used early and possibly in conjunction with corticosteroids. This trial will compare vasopressin to noradrenaline as initial vasopressor in the management of adult septic shock and investigate whether there is an interaction of vasopressin with corticosteroids.
Methods and analysis
This is a multicentre, factorial (2×2), randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. 412 patients will be recruited from multiple UK intensive care units and randomised to receive vasopressin (0–0.06 U/min) or noradrenaline (0–12 µg/min) as a continuous intravenous infusion as initial vasopressor therapy. If maximum infusion rates of this first study drug are reached, the patient will be treated with either hydrocortisone (initially 50 mg intravenous bolus six-hourly) or placebo, before additional open-label catecholamine vasopressors are prescribed. The primary outcome of the trial will be the difference in renal failure-free days between treatment groups. Secondary outcomes include need for renal replacement therapy, survival rates, other organ failures and resource utilisation.
Ethics and dissemination
The trial protocol and information sheets have received a favourable opinion from the Oxford A Research Ethics Committee (12/SC/0014). There is an independent Data Monitoring and Ethics Committee and independent membership of the Trial Steering Committee including patient and public involvement. The trial results will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national and international scientific meetings.
Trial registration number:
ISRCTN 20769191 and EudraCT 2011-005363-24.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005866
PMCID: PMC4091463  PMID: 24993769
Statistics & Research Methods
16.  Health Professionals’ knowledge and attitude towards the Umbilical Cord Blood donation in Greece 
Hippokratia  2014;18(2):110-115.
Background/aim:
In the last years a major emphasis is laid on the Allogeneic Transplantation of Blood Stem Cells from the Umbilical Cord Blood with a simultaneous development of Umbilical Cord Blood bank. The attitude and knowledge of Health Professionals is vital to the success of this attempt as it affects significantly the promotion of Umbilical Cord Blood donation. The aim of present study is the examination of Health Professionals’ knowledge and attitudes towards Umbilical Cord Blood in Greece.
Material and Methods:
The study was conducted from April 25th 2012 to May 7th 2012. The sample consisted of 109 Health Professionals from 3 provincial hospitals and 2 hospitals in Thessaloniki. In order to collect the data, a questionnaire was used. The questionnaire was designed by the researcher and a group of experts to serve the mission of the present study. From the 130 questionnaires sent, 109 were completely answered (response rate 84%).
Results:
Of those who participated to the research, 23.9% were physicians, 34.9% were midwives, and 34.8% were nurses. As far as the Health Professionals’ knowledge on the Umbilical Cord Blood is concerned, only 15.6% of the participants declared to be quite or well informed on the collection methods and the usage of Umbilical Cord Blood. The vast majority of the participants (89%), declared that a well-organized program on a continual training is very essential. 93.5% of the participants declared that in the last 5 years received no or very little training regarding the collection, storing and transplantation of Umbilical Cord Blood.
Conclusions:
Although according to a relevant research health professionals are considered by the public as the most credible source of information about Umbilical Cord Blood, their level of knowledge on the usage and storing of Umbilical Cord Blood is inadequate. The present study indicates the necessity of creation or reinforcing of effective programs of continual training with the use of technology (i.e. Internet).
PMCID: PMC4201394  PMID: 25336871
Blood Stem Cells; Umbilical Cord Blood; transplantation
17.  Updated National and International Hypertension Guidelines: A Review of Current Recommendations 
Drugs  2014;74(17):2033-2051.
Despite the availability of effective pharmacological treatments to aid the control of blood pressure, the global rate of uncontrolled blood pressure remains high. As such, further measures are required to improve blood pressure control. Recently, several national and international guidelines for the management of hypertension have been published. These aim to provide easily accessible information for healthcare professionals and patients to aid the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension. In this review, we have compared new and current guidelines from the American and International Societies of Hypertension; the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention; the panel appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee; the European Societies of Hypertension and Cardiology; the French Society of Hypertension; the Canadian Hypertension Education Program; the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (UK); the Taiwan Society of Cardiology and the Chinese Hypertension League. We have identified consensus opinion regarding best practises for the management of hypertension and have highlighted any discrepancies between the recommendations. In general there is good agreement between the guidelines, however, in some areas, such as target blood pressure ranges for the elderly, further trials are required to provide sufficient high-quality evidence to form the basis of recommendations.
doi:10.1007/s40265-014-0306-5
PMCID: PMC4224739  PMID: 25315030
18.  Ethical issues in the export, storage and reuse of human biological samples in biomedical research: perspectives of key stakeholders in Ghana and Kenya 
BMC Medical Ethics  2014;15(1):76.
Background
For many decades, access to human biological samples, such as cells, tissues, organs, blood, and sub-cellular materials such as DNA, for use in biomedical research, has been central in understanding the nature and transmission of diseases across the globe. However, the limitations of current ethical and regulatory frameworks in sub-Saharan Africa to govern the collection, export, storage and reuse of these samples have resulted in inconsistencies in practice and a number of ethical concerns for sample donors, researchers and research ethics committees. This paper examines stakeholders’ perspectives of and responses to the ethical issues arising from these research practices.
Methods
We employed a qualitative strategy of inquiry for this research including in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with key research stakeholders in Kenya (Nairobi and Kilifi), and Ghana (Accra and Navrongo).
Results
The stakeholders interviewed emphasised the compelling scientific importance of sample export, storage and reuse, and acknowledged the existence of some structures governing these research practices, but they also highlighted the pressing need for a number of practical ethical concerns to be addressed in order to ensure high standards of practice and to maintain public confidence in international research collaborations. These concerns relate to obtaining culturally appropriate consent for sample export and reuse, understanding cultural sensitivities around the use of blood samples, facilitating a degree of local control of samples and sustainable scientific capacity building.
Conclusion
Drawing on these findings and existing literature, we argue that the ethical issues arising in practice need to be understood in the context of the interactions between host research institutions and local communities and between collaborating institutions. We propose a set of ‘key points-to-consider’ for research institutions, ethics committees and funding agencies to address these issues.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-76
PMCID: PMC4210627  PMID: 25326753
Human biological samples; Broad consent; Research collaboration; Sample export; Africa
19.  Ghost Authorship in Industry-Initiated Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e19.
Background
Ghost authorship, the failure to name, as an author, an individual who has made substantial contributions to an article, may result in lack of accountability. The prevalence and nature of ghost authorship in industry-initiated randomised trials is not known.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cohort study comparing protocols and corresponding publications for industry-initiated trials approved by the Scientific-Ethical Committees for Copenhagen and Frederiksberg in 1994–1995. We defined ghost authorship as present if individuals who wrote the trial protocol, performed the statistical analyses, or wrote the manuscript, were not listed as authors of the publication, or as members of a study group or writing committee, or in an acknowledgment. We identified 44 industry-initiated trials. We did not find any trial protocol or publication that stated explicitly that the clinical study report or the manuscript was to be written or was written by the clinical investigators, and none of the protocols stated that clinical investigators were to be involved with data analysis. We found evidence of ghost authorship for 33 trials (75%; 95% confidence interval 60%–87%). The prevalence of ghost authorship was increased to 91% (40 of 44 articles; 95% confidence interval 78%–98%) when we included cases where a person qualifying for authorship was acknowledged rather than appearing as an author. In 31 trials, the ghost authors we identified were statisticians. It is likely that we have overlooked some ghost authors, as we had very limited information to identify the possible omission of other individuals who would have qualified as authors.
Conclusions
Ghost authorship in industry-initiated trials is very common. Its prevalence could be considerably reduced, and transparency improved, if existing guidelines were followed, and if protocols were publicly available.
Of 44 industry-initiated trials, there was evidence of ghost authorship in 33, increasing to 40 when a person qualifying for authorship was acknowledged rather than appearing as an author.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Original scientific findings are usually published in the form of a “paper”, whether it is actually distributed on paper, or circulated via the internet, as this one is. Papers are normally prepared by a group of researchers who did the research and are then listed at the top of the article. These authors therefore take responsibility for the integrity of the results and interpretation of them. However, many people are worried that sometimes the author list on the paper does not tell the true story of who was involved. In particular, for clinical research, case histories and previous research has suggested that “ghost authorship” is commonplace. Ghost authors are people who were involved in some way in the research study, or writing the paper, but who have been left off the final author list. This might happen because the study “looks” more credible if the true authors (for example, company employees or freelance medical writers) are not revealed. This practice might hide competing interests that readers should be aware of, and has therefore been condemned by academics, groups of editors, and some pharmaceutical companies.
Why Was This Study Done?
This group of researchers wanted to get an idea of how often ghost authorship happened in medical research done by companies. Previous studies looking into this used surveys, whereby the researchers would write to one author on each of a group of papers to ask whether anyone else had been involved in the work but who was not listed on the paper. These sorts of studies typically underestimate the rate of ghost authorship, because the main author might not want to admit what had been going on. However, the researchers here managed to get access to trial protocols (documents setting out the plans for future research studies), which gave them a way to investigate ghost authorship.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to investigate the frequency and type of ghost authorship, these researchers identified every trial which was approved between 1994 and 1995 by the ethics committees of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg in Denmark. Then they winnowed this group down to include only the trials that were sponsored by industry (pharmaceutical companies and others), and only those trials that were finished and published. The protocols for each trial were obtained from the ethics committees and the researchers then matched up each protocol with its corresponding paper. Then, they compared names which appeared in the protocol against names appearing on the eventual paper, either on the author list or acknowledged elsewhere in the paper as being involved. The researchers ended up studying 44 trials. For 31 of these (75% of them) they found some evidence of ghost authorship, in that people were identified as having written the protocol or who had been involved in doing statistical analyses or writing the manuscript, but did not end up listed in the manuscript. If the definition of authorship was made narrower, and “ghost authorship” included people qualifying for authorship who were mentioned in the acknowledgements but not the author list, the researchers' estimate went up to 91%, that is 40 of the 44 trials. For most of the trials with missing authors, the ghost was a statistician (the person who analyzes the trial data).
What Do These Findings Mean?
In this study, the researchers found that ghost authorship was very common in papers published in medical journals (this study covered a broad range of peer-reviewed journals in many medical disciplines). The method used in this paper seems more reliable than using surveys to work out how often ghost authorship happens. The researchers aimed to define authorship using the policies set out by a group called the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), and the findings here suggest that the ICMJE's standards for authorship are very often ignored. This means that people who read the published paper cannot always accurately judge or trust the information presented within it, and competing interests may be hidden. The researchers here suggest that protocols should be made publicly available so that everyone can see what trials are planned and who is involved in conducting them. The findings also suggest that journals should not only list the authors of each paper but describe what each author has done, so that the published information accurately reflects what has been carried out.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040019.
Read the Perspective by Liz Wager, which discusses these findings in more depth
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) is a group of general medical journal editors who have produced general guidelines for biomedical manuscripts; their definition of authorship is also described
The Committee on Publication Ethics is a forum for editors of peer-reviewed journals to discuss issues related to the integrity of the scientific record; the Web site lists anonymized problems and the committee's advice, not just regarding authorship, but other types of problems as well
Good Publication Practice for Pharmaceutical Companies outlines common standards for publication of industry-sponsored medical research, and some pharmaceutical companies have agreed to these
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040019
PMCID: PMC1769411  PMID: 17227134
20.  The Taiwan Birth Panel Study: a prospective cohort study for environmentally- related child health 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:291.
Background
The Taiwan Birth Panel Study (TBPS) is a prospective follow-up study to investigate the development of child health and disease in relation to in-utero and/or early childhood environmental exposures. The rationale behind the establishment of such a cohort includes the magnitude of potential environmental exposures, the timing of exposure window, fatal and children's susceptibility to toxicants, early exposure delayed effects, and low-level or unknown neurodevelopmental toxicants.
Methods
A total of 486 mother-infant paired was enrolled from April 2004 to January 2005 in this study. Maternal blood before delivery, placenta and umbilical cord blood at birth, and mothers' urine after delivery were collected. The follow-up was scheduled at birth, 4, 6 months, and 1, 2, 3 and 5 years. The children's blood, urine, hair, and saliva were collected at 2 years of age and children's urine was collected at 5 years of age as well. The study has been approved by the ethical committee of National Taiwan University Hospital. All the subjects signed the inform consent on entering the study and each of the follow up.
Results
Through this prospective birth cohort, the main health outcomes were focused on child growth, neurodevelopment, behaviour problem and atopic diseases. We investigated the main prenatal and postnatal factors including smoking, heavy metals, perfluorinated chemicals, and non-persistent pesticides under the consideration of interaction of the environment and genes.
Conclusions
This cohort study bridges knowledge gaps and answers unsolved issues in the low-level, prenatal or postnatal, and multiple exposures, genetic effect modification, and the initiation and progression of "environmentally-related childhood diseases."
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-291
PMCID: PMC3170609  PMID: 21838884
Cohort study; prenatal environmental exposure; child growth; neurodevelopment; behaviour problem; single-nucleotide polymorphisms
21.  Review of national research ethics regulations and guidelines in Middle Eastern Arab countries 
BMC Medical Ethics  2012;13:34.
Background
Research ethics guidelines are essential for conducting medical research. Recently, numerous attempts have been made to establish national clinical research documents in the countries of the Middle East. This article analyzes these documents.
Methods
Thirteen Arab countries in the Middle East were explored for available national codes, regulations, and guidelines concerning research ethics, and 10 documents from eight countries were found. We studied these documents, considering the ethical principles stated in the Declaration of Helsinki, the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) guidelines, and the International Conference of Harmonization - Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice (ICH-GCP). Our paper comprises a complete list of protections, such as confidentiality, informed consent, ethics committees, and others.
Results
This study found different levels and kinds of research ethics regulations and guidelines in the countries examined. Two groups can be distinguished: the countries in the first group have one or more research ethics regulations or guidelines, while the countries in the second group have not yet established any. Most of the documents showed various degrees of deficiencies in regard to ethical protection. The majority of the documents that were examined refer to one or more international documents on biomedical research ethics.
Conclusions
Recently, a lot of efforts have been made in many countries in the Middle East. However, compared with international documents, most of the research ethics documents in use in this region demonstrate numerous deficiencies. As it relates to these documents, extensive differences could be observed in regard to development, structure, content, and reference to international guidelines.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-13-34
PMCID: PMC3576357  PMID: 23234422
22.  Umbilical cord blood banking: from personal donation to international public registries to global bioeconomy 
The procedures for collecting voluntarily and freely donated umbilical cord blood (UCB) units and processing them for use in transplants are extremely costly, and the capital flows thus generated form part of an increasingly pervasive global bioeconomy. To place the issue in perspective, this article first examines the different types of UCB biobank, the organization of international registries of public UCB biobanks, the optimal size of national inventories, and the possibility of obtaining commercial products from donated units. The fees generally applied for the acquisition of UCB units for transplantation are then discussed, and some considerations are proposed regarding the social and ethical implications raised by the international network for the importation and exportation of UCB, with a particular emphasis on the globalized bioeconomy of UCB and its commerciality or lack thereof.
doi:10.2147/JBM.S64090
PMCID: PMC4069132  PMID: 24971040
cord blood banking; economy; ethics; stem cells; transplantation
23.  Ethics reporting practices in clinical research publications: A review of four Indian journals 
Background:
Manuscript authors of scientific journals are expected to report if their studies were conducted according to international and national ethical guidelines and inform readers regarding ethics approval and informed consent obtained from participants and/or their legally acceptable representative/s. In the present study we assessed the reporting practices of ethics approval and informed consent (assent in case of pediatric studies) in four Indian journals.
Materials and Methods:
Original research articles published over a period of 4 years (2009-2012) in four major national clinical journals, viz. Journal of Association of Physicians of India (JAPI), Indian Journal of Surgery (IJS), Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India (JOGI), and Indian Journal of Orthopedics (IJO) were reviewed with regard to documentation of ethics approval and written informed consent and assent in case of pediatric participants.
Results:
We reviewed 673 research articles and found that, overall ethical approval was mentioned in 163 (24.2%) and informed consent or assent was mentioned in 179 (26.5%) articles in all four journals. Individually we found, in JAPI of the 174 manuscripts reviewed, 74 (42.5%) reported having obtained approval from the ethics committee and 68 (39.1%) reported taking written informed consent from participants. In IJS of 123 manuscripts, 18 (14.6%) reported ethics committee approval and 20 (16.2%) reported informed consent from participants. In JOGI of 152 manuscripts, 21 (13.8%) reported ethics committee approval while 49 (32.2%) reported informed consent from participants. In IJO, of 224 manuscripts, 50 (22.3%) reported ethics committee approval and 42 (18.7%) reported obtaining informed consent.
Conclusion:
Majority of the publications did not provide information regarding compliance to ethical guidelines in spite of the availability of various guidelines. Thus, there is a need for awareness and training on bioethics for authors, reviewers, and editors of biomedical journals.
doi:10.4103/2229-3485.134316
PMCID: PMC4073550  PMID: 24987584
Ethical approval; ethics committee; informed consent
24.  Long-term storage of blood RNA collected in RNA stabilizing Tempus tubes in a large biobank – evaluation of RNA quality and stability 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7(1):633.
Background
Establishing methods for secure long term storage of RNA is critical to realizing the promise of biobanks in biomedical research. Here, we describe the results of yearly analyses of the same set of umbilical cord and adult whole blood RNA collected in Tempus Blood RNA tubes and stored at -80°C, over a period of up to six years. We systematically investigated the effects of long-term storage of samples (75 Tempus tubes form three adult donors and 30 Tempus tubes from three cord blood donors) on the RNA quality and transcript stability of six selected genes (CDKN1A, FOS, IL1B, IL8, MYC and TP53). This is the first systematic study of both cord and adult blood samples stored for many years.
Findings
The RNA purity and integrity, expressed as RIN-values, were stable up to six years of storage, and there were no storage-related deleterious effects on RNA purity. There were limited intra- and inter-individual variations in RNA yields; however, no consistent trend of decreasing RNA yield was observed with the duration of storage. Some long-term storage effects were found on the relative transcript levels of the six genes when compared to the year 0 samples. However, these changes were within ± 2–fold for both types of blood samples, except for two genes. Our results show that storage of these samples for up to six years did not have significant effects on the RNA quality and transcript stability of the six genes.
Conclusions
Blood RNA is stable in Tempus tubes stored at -80°C over a period of six years. Intact and good-quality RNA suitable for transcript profiling analyses in epidemiological studies was obtained from blood samples stored in Tempus tubes. This suggests that blood samples collected in large biobanks–such as the Mother and Child (MoBa) Cohort at Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and frozen in suitable collection tubes for total RNA stabilization, can be used for quantitative studies after at least six years of storage.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-633) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-633
PMCID: PMC4168124  PMID: 25214016
Tempus tubes; Cord blood; Long-term storage; Quality control; RNA stabilization; Biobank
25.  An eight-year follow-up national study of medical school and general hospital ethics committees in Japan 
BMC Medical Ethics  2007;8:8.
Background
Ethics committees and their system of research protocol peer-review are currently used worldwide. To ensure an international standard for research ethics and safety, however, data is needed on the quality and function of each nation's ethics committees. The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics and developments of ethics committees established at medical schools and general hospitals in Japan.
Methods
This study consisted of four national surveys sent twice over a period of eight years to two separate samples. The first target was the ethics committees of all 80 medical schools and the second target was all general hospitals with over 300 beds in Japan (n = 1457 in 1996 and n = 1491 in 2002). Instruments contained four sections: (1) committee structure, (2) frequency of annual meetings, (3) committee function, and (4) existence of a set of guidelines for the refusal of blood transfusion by Jehovah's Witnesses.
Results
Committee structure was overall interdisciplinary. Frequency of annual meetings increased significantly for both medical school and hospital ethics committees over the eight years. The primary activities for medical school and hospital ethics committees were research protocol reviews and policy making. Results also showed a significant increase in the use of ethical guidelines, particularly those related to the refusal of blood transfusion by Jehovah's Witnesses, among both medical school and hospital ethics committees.
Conclusion
Overall findings indicated a greater recognized degree of responsibilities and an increase in workload for Japanese ethics committees.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-8-8
PMCID: PMC1925100  PMID: 17598923

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