Embryo Experiments Reveal Earliest Human Development, But Stir Ethical Debate

Shots.  Health News from NPR

Rob Stein

Ali Brivanlou slides open a glass door at the Rockefeller University in New York to show off his latest experiments probing the mysteries of the human embryo.

“As you can see, all my lab is glass — just to make sure there is nothing that happens in some dark rooms that gives people some weird ideas,” says Brivanlou, perhaps only half joking.

Brivanlou knows that some of his research makes some people uncomfortable. That’s one reason he has agreed to give me a look at what’s going on.

His lab and one other discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab dishes longer than ever before — at least 14 days. That has triggered an international debate about a long-standing convention (one that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S.) that prohibits studying human embryos that have developed beyond the two-week stage. . . . [Full text]


Human eggs grown from stem cells to be used to produce embryos

It is reported that, within a few weeks, researchers from Edinburgh University will request a license from Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to fertilize human eggs produced from stem cells isolated in ovarian tissue.  The ultimate goal is to produce an unlimited supply of human eggs for artificial reproduction and research, and, perhaps, to provide a way to treat older women to prevent health problems related to menopause.  However, the immediate purpose is to demonstrate that the eggs grown in the laboratory can be used to produce human embryos.  Embryos  produced in the initial experiment will be studied for up to 14 days and then destroyed or frozen. [The Independent] While researchers clearly are protected by a protection of conscience provision in the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act, a recent court decision suggests that the law may not protect physicians and others who may be asked to facilitate procedures and services that may ultimately be derived from this research.