Science – Leopoldina: Embryo research is permitted in Germany

Science - Leopoldina: Embryo research is permitted in Germany

Halle / Chicago (dpa) – From the perspective of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the ban on research on early embryos outside the human body should fall in Germany.

According to international standards, scientists should be able to pursue high-level research goals, according to a statement published on Wednesday by Leopoldina and the Federation of German Academies of Sciences.

Also Wednesday, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) talked about the potential for embryos made from human stem cells to grow for longer than the usual 14 days in the laboratory. Therefore, researchers should be allowed to grow embryo models in the laboratory as long as they serve the intended research purpose – but only after individual testing.

In the latest edition of the 2016 International Handbook, violation of the 14-day rule was deemed a “prohibited research activity”. Since then, research has made great strides – both in the growth of human embryos and, for example, in the formation of embryos from stem cells, as the 11-member task force explains the new version of the manual in Stem Cell Reports.

The authors are from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Austria, Japan and China. The group wrote that “while the committee is aware that the transfer of human embryos after 14 days is prohibited by law or regulations in many legal systems, it believes that imposing a comprehensive ban in this area could hinder important research directions.”

Each research project should be studied and evaluated separately according to scientific and ethical aspects. It is particularly concerned with the degree of integration of the embryo model, that is, whether or not it develops all the features necessary for its further maturation. Therefore, the prohibition of transferring embryos to the womb of humans or animals should be imposed.

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Commenting on the new guiding principle, Thomas Zwaka of the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai, New York, said, “Cell culture models that go beyond the 14-day rule are essential to our understanding of human development as one of the most important developmental factors. Steps. They only happen after this period.” It is becoming increasingly clear that the basis of many serious developmental disorders can be understood through advanced models. “Embryo models are not“ real human life. ”The new guidelines are outdated because many researchers have aggressively pushed the boundaries of what is possible for years.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Leopoldina’s statement was published on the same day that the new ISSCR guidelines were published. The Embryo Protection Act (ESchG) 1990, according to the statement, allows human embryos to be created in the laboratory for the purpose of reproduction. But it prohibits any search for it. In contrast, countries such as Israel, Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain, the United States and Japan allow searches within narrow limits for early human embryos that are no longer necessary for reproduction.

Excess embryos created in the context of fertility treatments should be allowed to be used, but they are no longer needed in science. A committee specially created to evaluate the research projects involved and their goals.

The statement emphasized that according to international scientific opinion, there are a number of important questions that can only be answered scientifically with the help of embryo research. This includes treating common diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes, using stem cell lines. In addition, it involves elucidating the early developmental biology of a human being, improving reproductive medicine or improving the development of fetuses and embryos during pregnancy.

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The statement added that German scientists have so far managed to contribute little to this research. “Thirty years after ESchG went into effect, the Academies feel it is time to re-evaluate the legal and ethically responsible treatment of early human embryos.”

From the point of view of the academies of science, the decision to make the extra embryos available for research should fall on the couple who came from it. When family planning for these couples is complete, the remaining embryos can be discarded on their own or donated to the other couples.

According to the information, more than 319,000 babies were born in Germany between 1997 and 2018 after IVF. In this procedure, the woman’s eggs are removed after taking the hormone and combined with the man’s sperm. In some cases, more embryos are produced than those transferred to the woman.

The statement recommends that “the search for early embryos in the laboratory, that is, outside the human body, which were created for reproductive purposes but are no longer used for this purpose (…), should be permitted in accordance with international standards.” Permission to conduct research should apply only to High-level research objectives that seek to gain scientific knowledge in the context of basic research and to expand medical knowledge in the development of diagnostic, preventive or curative measures.

For example, the federal government, along with an ethics committee, can decide whether to accept a project. Embryo research has sparked decades of debate. Research interests play a role, as do ethical and legal considerations.

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