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Stem Cells

Question for Department of Health

UIN HL3462, tabled on 5 December 2014

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 4 December (HL3090), whether the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s Scientific and Clinical Advances Advisory Committee and its Licence Committee will provide their own assessment of the journal articles concerned in order to ensure that the continued use of embryos is necessary or desirable for the specified principal purposes; how they consider the feasibility of treating degenerative conditions such as those listed in Annex D of the mitochondrial donation consultation document might be affected by the findings in the aforementioned journal articles; for how long the research project concerned has been investigating the use of embryonic stem cells "to improve the outcome of infertility treatments"; and in what ways their possible clinical use in treating infertility might impel the Secretary of State to include things specified in the regulations which would not otherwise fall within the definitions of "embryo", "eggs", "sperm" or "gametes".

Answered on

18 December 2014

We are advised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that

its Scientific and Clinical Advances Advisory Committee (SCAAC) regularly reviews the literature regarding alternative methods to derive human embryonic stem cells so that the HFEA Licence Committee can bear it in mind when considering research licence applications and renewals of licences, in order to ensure that the continued use of embryos is necessary or desirable for the specified principal purposes. SCAAC last considered a literature review on this topic on 4 June 2014 and the paper is available on the HFEA website at:

http://www.hfea.gov.uk/9152.html

We are advised that the journal articles referred to by the noble Lord will be considered in the next review process.

We are also advised that the research project to which the noble Lord refers first expressly used the phrase “to improve the outcome of infertility treatments” in May 2013.

As the noble Lord is aware, the regulation making power in section 3ZA of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, as amended, is limited to enabling regulations to be made to allow an egg or embryo to which a mitochondrial donation technique has been applied to be recognised as a permitted egg or embryo and, therefore, suitable to be placed in a woman. There is no cure for mitochondrial disease. The intended purpose of the draft regulations is to prevent the transmission of serious mitochondrial disease from mother to child in the first instance.