Don’t abandon 14-day limit on embryo research, it makes sense

Nature

  • CORRESPONDENCE

Don’t abandon 14-day limit on embryo research, it makes sense

As supporters of human-embryo research, we are troubled by the recommendations from the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) to allow some in vitro studies of human embryo-like entities beyond the 14-day limit (see go.nature.com/3gfkkw8 and Nature 593, 479; 2021).

There are 4 compelling reasons for the 14-day limit. Its clarity leaves little room for misinterpretation. It corresponds to important biological events, including the beginning of ectoderm/neural progenitors. In marking the end of the possibilities of twinning or chimaerism, it is the start of a unique biological identity. There is no later relevant nexus of events.

The guidelines recommend instead case-by-case approval for integrated embryos that are based on stem cells. This would permit research up to the “minimum time necessary” for scientific questions deemed “highly meritorious” through a “rigorous review process”.

We caution that these utilitarian objectives are limitless. Furthermore, the questions deemed “highly meritorious” can be addressed using in vivo murine or non-human primate models.

The ISSCR must offer more-compelling arguments for abandoning the 14-day limit.

Nature 594, 333 (2021)

Competing Interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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