Don't ban embryo-based research says new chairman of European fertility organisation

Madrid, Spain: The incoming chairman of an organisation representing over 4,000 international fertility experts has urged the EU not to go down the road of attempting to ban research on embryonic stem cells.

Professor Arne Sunde, who takes over tomorrow as chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, told a news briefing today (Monday 30 June) at the society's annual conference, that a ban would severely impede progress in understanding the causes of human infertility and damage prospects of new treatments for serious diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The stem cell controversy has become caught up in proposals by EU Commissioners for an EU-wide directive outlining quality and safety standards for tissue donation testing and distribution. The European Parliament's environment and public health committee, and subsequently European MPs, amended the proposed directive to include a ban on research designed to create human embryos solely for research purposes or to supply stem cells, including stem cells produced by somatic cell transfer (therapeutic cloning). On 2 June, the Council and the majority of ministers disagreed with calls for prohibition to be included in the directive and agreed that member states will be free to maintain, or introduce, their own more stringent measures if they wish. However, opposition from some countries' delegations to embryo-derived stem cells means that there will almost certainly be moves to reinstate the ban at the second reading in Parliament.

Professor Sunde, a cell biologist and laboratory director for the IVF Unit at University Hospital of Trondheim in Norway, said: "Research into non-embryo-based stem cell sources is progressing. Indeed, only today there is a paper published in ESHRE's journal Human Reproduction by Professor Markus Hengstschlger's team[1] from the University of Vienna, providing evidence that it may be possible to derive pluripotent cells from amniotic f

Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

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