Statement Of The DFG Concerning "Questions Of Human Embryonic Stem Cells"

Alterations of legal status in Germany unnecessary

On March 18th the executive board of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) has discussed and passed a statement concerning issues of human embryonic stem cells. In the last weeks this paper had been compiled by a group of experts and the senate committee for fundamental questions of genetic engineering called together by the president of the DFG. Publication of this statement is in compliance with the statutory tasks of the DFG to advise legislative and executive in scientific matters.

In November 1998 two groups in the US and Israel reported that they had been successful for the first time to keep human pluripotent stem cells in permanent tissue culture. Pluripotent stem cells are prepared either from supernumerary embryos obtained in the course of artificial fertilisation (ES cells), or from tissues of aborted fetuses (EG cells). Such cells are immortalised, they can be propagated indefinitely, and, theoretically, can develop into any of the approximately 210 cell types of the human body. These capacities promise a number of revolutionary scientific and medical novelties affecting, for example, treatment of cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or diabetes. Such cells might also render themselves suitable for producing human tissues or organs in the laboratory, for testing drugs on human cells rather than on animals, and for the development of novel drugs due to a better understanding of cellular specialisation and differentiation processes.

The DFG realises that research on and with human stem cells would allow the pursuance of fundamental diagnostic and therapeutical goals, the great potential of which for medicine cannot be assessed yet precisely in its entirety. The DFG is aware of the fact also that for various motives legal and ethical reservations exist against currently known methods of preparing pluripotent stem cells.

The embryo protection law prohibi

Contact: Dr. Eva-Maria Streier
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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