Brussels, 02 Aug 2004
Germany has published a report on the first 18 months of regulations allowing the import and use of human embryonic stem cells for research purposes.
The report covers the period 1 July 2002 until 31 December 2003, during which seven applications for carrying out stem cell research were received by the Robert Koch Institute, which is responsible for reviewing applications. Five had been approved by the end of 2003. All approved applications involve the importing of stem cell lines registered at the US National Institute of Health.
The new law has already proved itself, according to Germany's health and research ministers, Ulla Schmidt and Edelgard Bulmahn, in particular by ensuring high ethical standards and creating safe conditions for research.
Stem cell research has always been a sensitive subject in Germany, but in 2002 Chancellor Gerhard Schröder argued in favour of allowing restricted research in order to prevent Germany from falling behind other countries in this field. The resulting law permits German scientists to conduct experiments using human embryonic stem cells for research considered to be important, to improve scientific knowledge in basic research, or to further medical knowledge of the development of diagnostic, preventative or therapeutic processes for the treatment of humans. Import and use must be approved by the Robert Koch Institute under the surveillance of an independent and central ethics commission on stem cell research.
'The submitted and approved applications for the import and use of human embryonic stem cells for research purposes show that the opportunities made possible by the stem cell law are being seized,' states the report.
'The compulsory regulations on the conditions for allowing imports and the use of human embryonic stem cells for research purposes, the approval process and the setting up of an independent central ethics commission for stem cell research with the task of checking and assessing the approval conditions that are part of the authorisation process have proved themselves valuable,' continues the report.'
The research approved between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2003 includes a project that will procure neural and glial cells from human embryonic stem cells and investigating their development and regeneration potential in an animal model. A second project will involve differentiating between the human embryonic stem cells in heart muscle cells and characterising these cells, while a third will develop an in-vitro system for the analysis of neurotoxic effects on human embryonic stem cells.
To access the report, please consult the following web address: