Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 24

Submission from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

  1.  The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is concerned at the suggestions of outlawing the transfer of human nuclei into animal eggs even as part of scientifically approved research projects.

  2.  There is considerable disquiet about women acting as donors for stem cell research (Editorials, Nature). 1-3 There is additional concern where nuclear transfer is intended as part of "therapeutic cloning" studies, as these procedures are in the early stages of development and many failures would be expected.

  3.  Nuclear transfer technology could produce significant advances in the understanding of the cellular mechanisms of differentiation and de-differentiation, which are relevant to our understanding of neoplasia and early human development. It will also allow study of important inherited clinical disorders in vitro reducing the need for animal models. Whilst stem cell lines containing specific genetic abnormalities such as cystic fibrosis and Huntington disease have been generated from embryos surplus to PGD procedures, 4, 5 certain serious disorders such as motor neurone disease and Parkinson's disease are not amenable to PGD, hence an alternative source of stem cell generation for study is required. Nuclear transfer using somatic cell nuclei from affected patients inserted into appropriate oocytes would allow generation of stem cell lines containing the relevant mutation for the study in vitro of these disorders.

  4.  As a college concerned with the health of women, it would seem both prudent and fair that preliminary experiments are conducted first on easily obtained animal oocytes (such as from cow ovaries from the meat industry), avoiding women having to undergo the discomfort and risk of ovarian stimulation and vaginal egg retrieval for research purposes until there is a significant prospect of success with nuclear transfer.

REFERENCES  1  Safeguards for donors, Nature (2006) 442, (7103), 601.

  2  Ethicists and biologists ponder the price of eggs, Nature (2006) 442, 606.

  3  Health effects of egg donation may take decades to emerge. Nature (2006) 442, 607.

  4  Pickering S J, Minger S L, Patel M, Taylor H, Black C, Burns C J, et al. Generation of a human embryonic stem cell line encoding the cystic fibrosis mutation deltaF508, using preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Reprod Biomed Online 2005;10(3):390-7.

  5  Mateizel I, De Temmerman N, Ullmann U, Cauffman G, Sermon K, Van de Velde H, et al. Derivation of human embryonic stem cell lines from embryos obtained after IVF and after PGD for monogenic disorders. Hum Reprod 2006; 21(2):503-11.

January 2007

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