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France moves ES cell research forward

13 October 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 280

Human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research may soon be going ahead in France, as the government has now given permission for French scientists to work on ES cells imported from other countries.

The French National Assembly voted earlier this year to allow ES cell research to take place in the country for the next five years, when the law will be reviewed again. But the law will not come into effect until spring 2005 at the earliest, after an agency governing biomedicine - including embryo and stem cell research - has been created. The new law states that French researchers will be able to work on stem cells derived from donated human embryos, for example those left over from fertility treatments, but will not allow the creation of embryos solely for research purposes. The previous law prohibited any form of embryo research in France.

To bridge the gap until researchers can begin using donated embryos, Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has authorised the import of ES cells. He said that the 'transitional measure had been put into place so that researchers can continue to do their work', adding 'from now until then, researchers will be using embryos imported from abroad'.

Scientists have welcomed the Health Ministry's decision, saying that it will allow the benefits of ES cell research to be felt more quickly in France. Michel Puceat, from the French National Research Centre, said that the reason ES cell research has been delayed in France is wholly political, adding 'we have been waiting for three years for this decision to be allowed to do research on human embryonic stem cells'. Researcher Marc Pechansky said 'we have waited long enough, but now scientists in this field will be able to work in better conditions than before', adding 'there is still a lot to be discovered'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
France green lights stem cells
The Scientist |  11 October 2004
France welcomes human stem cell research
Medical News Today |  12 October 2004
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