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Stem cells research: UK law

The UK has a definite and comprehensive stem cells research regulation. If you want to understand stem cells research in the UK and the law, take a look at what it says. Although it is allowed provided you get a valid licence, there are limitations as to what you can and cannot do.

Frequently asked questions

Stem cells research in the UK is permitted, but the law states that first, a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFEA) be requested. Under the Act of 1990, stem cell research is authorised to develop advances for infertility treatments in addition to upgrading the data base for congenital disease, miscarriages, deadly diseases, embryo development and improve contraception techniques.

The HFEA will only grant a licence if it is resolute that the use of embryos is necessary for research to be undertaken.

  • What can be researched

Stem cell research can only be done on embryos that are fertilised from eggs outside of the body. In the UK, these embryos are eggs that were fertilised for use in fertility treatments. However, there are surplus or extra embryos which when donated by parents are and can be used for stem cell research.

  • Time frame

Under the law, licensed research can only take place for a maximum of 14 days.

  • Amendment

The power of the HFEA to grant licences research was amended in 2008. With this modification, licences can be granted to allow for other types of research such as adding limited animal cells to human cells to create hybrids. Again, this is only for research purposes.

  • What is illegal in the UK

Although stem cell research is sanctioned in the UK, human reproductive cloning is illegal covered by the Human Reproductive Cloning Act of 2001. It also makes it unlawful to use nuclear replacement to make a child.

Ethical and regulatory bodies

In addition to the HFEA, stem cells research in the UK and law are regulated by several ethical and regulatory oversight bodies such as the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). There is also the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC), Nuffield Council of Bioethics and the Royal Society that are part of independent regulatory bodies.

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