From Bio Journal - January 2009

Reproductive cells produced from pluripotent cells approved, but fertilization banned

Approval in principle for the production of ova and sperm from 'pluripotent' cells (human embryonic stem [ES] cells, induced pluripotent stem [iPS] cells and so on) has been written into the draft report considered by the MEXT working group on 27 November 2008. (See BJ December 2008) The current MEXT guidelines ban all acts such as the production of ova and sperm from pluripotent cells, the fertilization of the cells produced, and the placing of fertilized cells in the uterus. Where exactly to draw the line on such activity has been the focus of the discussion in the working group thus far. The draft report states, "For the present, the production of reproductive cells from ES cells and so on, and no further, is approved." The guidelines ban for the time being the production of fertilized ova through the use of the reproductive cells produced. A certain directionality has now been indicated for the issues that the working group and its higher-level committee have been considering for the past three years.

There are, however, still some issues remaining. One of these is the extent to which banned activity will indeed be enshrined in the guideline. The working group is to finalise its report by the end of March 2009 at the earliest.

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