Pregnant women help in ethical study

March 8, 2002

THES reporters look at global developments in stem-cell research and legislation.

Scientists have launched a two-year probe into the ethics of using for research tissue samples from pregnant women or those who have had a miscarriage, writes Tony Tysome.

The study follows increased concern over the retention and use of such tissue, particularly stem cells and umbilical cord blood, which has potential for treating degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

In the two-year Wellcome Trust-funded project, being conducted by research teams at Birmingham University, the University of North London and Imperial College, doctors, nurses, midwives, pregnant women and women who have had miscarriages will be interviewed about the ethical issues involved.

Regulations preventing the use of material from aborted babies do not cover babies that have been miscarried, or the placentas from births, which are seen as possible alternative sources of stem cells. Their use would make it unnecessary to grow embryos for research.

The research will delve into case history and literature as well as gathering together views on the ethical and social implications.

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