May 24, 2024

Germany liberalises stem cell law

But scientists still cannot create embryonic stem cells

Germany has loosened restrictions on embryonic stem cell research after a long debate -– but creating embryonic stem cells there is still banned. German scientists will now be able to import human embryonic stem cells which were created before May 1, 2007, increasing the number of stem cell lines available for research from 40 to 500.

The German debate over stem cells would be familiar to Americans, Britons or Australians. The issues and the opposing teams are more or less the same. But many Germans remember that doctors and scientists did appalling medical experiments on inmates of Nazi death camps. Hence, despite their generally progressive social policies, German lawmakers have exasperated scientists by refusing to authorise the creation and destruction of embryos for their experiments.

Until now, German researchers could only work on stem cell lines created before January 1, 2002. Reactions to the changes were mixed. The head of the Max Planck Institute, Peter Gruss, commented that "the changes give "German researchers the chance to stay competitive internationally". But the premier of Bavaria, Guenther Beckstein, regarded them as a dangerous precedent. "My worry is that it will now become easier to further undermine the protection of unborn life," he said. ~ Deutsche Welle, Apr 11