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Dutch government seeks to allow creation of human embryos for research

6 June 2016
Appeared in BioNews 854

The Dutch government is planning to change the law to allow for the creation of human embryos for research.

Currently, research is limited to using embryos leftover from IVF. However, Edith Schippers, the Dutch health minister, believes that the ban is restricting research into reproductive technologies and the prevention of some serious diseases.

'Until now the ban on the cultivation of embryos has hampered research which could help with the treatment of diseases in the short to medium-long term,' she said in a statement.

The aim of the proposal is 'to give people the possibility of (healthy) children', specifically those who are infertile due to treatment for childhood leukaemia or are at risk of passing on genetic disorders.

Schippers said she advocated a 'no, unless' policy under which the creation of embryos would only be permitted under 'strict and limited conditions', including adherence to the 14-day time limit, after which embryos must be destroyed. The research must also be directly relevant to clinical application and be for 'infertility, assisted reproductive techniques and genetic or congenital disorders'.

The statement singles out mitochondrial donation and developing techniques for storing testicular or ovarian tissue, as well as deriving gametes from stem cells, as examples of research that would benefit from the relaxation of restrictions. The creation of embryos would allow scientists to test the safety and efficacy of such procedures by being able to investigate development in the early stages of development, Schippers explained.

Under the proposals, donors of gametes used to create embryos must also give their informed consent and applications for research would also be assessed by the Central Committee on Research Involving Human Subjects, which currently oversees embryo research in the Netherlands.

Dutch to change law on embryo research to help childless couples |  30 May 2016
Netherlands gives green light for growing human embryos
The Guardian (Agence France-Presse) |  28 May 2016
Schippers wil perspectief voor onvruchtbare mensen
Dutch Government |  27 May 2016
16 October 2017 - by Dr Kay Elder 
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16 May 2016 - by Dr Helen O'Neill 
Species-specific differences in terms of developmental timing and molecular expression patterns have restricted our true understanding of early human development...
9 May 2016 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Scientists from the UK and US have grown human embryos in the lab for 13 days after fertilisation – the longest ever recorded. This is beyond the stage when embryos would normally implant in the womb, but just before the 14-day legal limit in the UK...
9 May 2016 - by Julian Hitchcock 
The advances of Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, the opportunities to undertake valuable medical research and our changed sense of values all demand that we reappraise the 14-day limit...
11 April 2016 - by Ayala Ochert 
A second team in China report that they have created genetically modified human embryos, in an attempt to make them resistant to HIV, using the genome-editing technique CRISPR/Cas9...
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