Brussels, 21 February 2002
A Finnish forum of embryo and stem cell researchers has adopted a statement aiming to define the limits of research in this area and launch a debate on the issue.
The forum calls for research on human embryos to 'be directed to studies which aim at increasing the knowledge about early embryonic development, developing treatments for diseases and infertility,' and clarifying the genetic origin of diseases.
The group also warns that the spectrum of the existing stem cell lines of human embryos is insufficient for this work, and calls for an increase in the production of stem cell lines from embryos. It says the production of stem cell lines using the cell nuclear transfer method should continue to be permitted, as this makes it possible to prevent the rejection of cells introduced into the body for therapeutic purposes by producing stem cells identical with the patient's own cells.
The statement sets out strong opposition, however, to the cloning of human beings as it 'involves ethical problems and considerable risks of foetal defects.' The forum affirms its commitment to preventing human cloning 'with the means available to the research community.'
At present, Finnish law permits the use of surplus embryos left over from fertility treatments for research purposes, provided the written, informed consent of the germ cell donors is obtained. The production of embryos for research purposes only is prohibited. An embryo used in research must not be kept alive for more than 14 days from conception, or transferred into a human being.
The statement was issued by the Finnish Association of developmental biology, a task from the Finnish gynaecological association, the Centre for reproductive and developmental medicine and the Finnish Association of IVF laboratories.
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