Clause lifting aids stem cell research

Friday, 08 April, 2005

The opportunities for research have been widened with the recent lifting of a ban on using recently created embryos.

Scientists with a licence can now use embryos created by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the past three years, which they say will improve research into genetic diseases, stem cell therapies and artificial reproductive techniques.

In 2002, the federal government introduced legislation to give researchers access to unused frozen embryos from the IVF process.

In a blow to future stem cell research, the legislation held a clause preventing use of embryos created after 2002 could not be used.

Despite opposition from Prime Minister John Howard, the clause has expired and the ban has been lifted.

There is a feeling among some that the lifting will create a conflict of interest for IVF clinics.

It is felt IVF clinics may fall into the practice of creating more embryos than is needed in order to use the remainder for research. At present there has been nothing to suggest this fear will become a reality.

IVF clinics must hold a licence in order to use embryos for research and the number of embryos used per research project is heavily limited.

The lifting of the ban comes ahead of the pending announcement of a review of Australian laws covering stem cell research and cloning.

The federal government review of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002, which will cover the cloning of embryos for research purposes, is set to be complete by 19 December.

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