60% of Couples OK Embryos for Research
Most Infertile Couples Favor Stem Cell Research; Fewer Would Donate Embryos to Others
WebMD News Archive
‘Missing From the Debate’ continued...
There are currently around 400,000 frozen embryos stored in the United
States. If the survey paints an accurate picture of the feelings of infertile
couples nationwide, Faden and Lyerly suggest that as many as 100,000 stored
embryos would be available for research.
That is assuming the law is changed to allow federally funded research on
new embryonic stem cells.
Currently, federal funding for stem cell research prohibits the use of cells
derived from embryos available after August of 2001. The bill vetoed by
President Bush Wednesday would have lifted this restriction.
2,000 New Stem Cell Lines
Embryonic stem cells have the ability to become any type of cell present in
the human body. The hope is that research using the cells will lead to advances
in the treatment of a host of human conditions including Parkinson’s and
Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, heart disease, and
Faden and Lyerly estimated that the availability of 100,000 new embryos
could conservatively lead to 2,000 new stem cell lines -- 100 times as many
lines as are being used in federally funded research today.
“Other lines are being used in privately funded research,” Faden says. “But
it is clear that if federal funding restrictions were lifted, embryos would be
available in large numbers.”
The fact that so few infertility patients questioned in the survey (22% of
respondents with embryos) were willing to donate their unused frozen embryos to
couples intending pregnancy adds a new wrinkle to the national stem cell
debate, Lyerly tells WebMD.
She is an ob-gyn at Duke University Medical Center and a faculty member at
Duke’s Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, and History of Medicine.
“The presumption has been that if you respect embryos you would be less
likely to want to see them used for research or destroyed than for
[pregnancy],” she says. “What we found was that the people who are most
invested in these embryos -- emotionally, genetically, and financially -- are
reluctant to have them turned into children outside the context of their
families, without their love and care.”