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Medical Ethics AH Embryo Research. Why is embryo research a moral issue? Embryo research is a controversial moral issue because of the fact that it uses.

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Presentation on theme: "Medical Ethics AH Embryo Research. Why is embryo research a moral issue? Embryo research is a controversial moral issue because of the fact that it uses."— Presentation transcript:

1 Medical Ethics AH Embryo Research

2 Why is embryo research a moral issue? Embryo research is a controversial moral issue because of the fact that it uses living human cells or human embryos Some see them as human life forms with many of the rights of a fully formed human eg. The right to life Some religious people think that it is wrong because it is ‘playing God’ Others believe that killing an embryo is like killing a person and that there is no difference between the two

3 How are embryos used In research? Embryos should not be created for the purpose of research The research must have a specific purpose or goal Scientists use embryos to: develop new forms of contraceptive To find reasons for miscarriage To develop cures for congenital (genetic) diseases Investigate the causes of infertility screen for genetic disease PGD- pre-implantation genetic diagnosis

4 Where do the embryos come from? The vast majority of embryos are ‘spare’ embryos left over from IVF In Vitro Fertilization (assisted reproduction) outside the womb IVF is used to help infertile people have children The process begins after the cause of the infertility has been investigated The woman is given a course of drugs to cause hyper ovulation This means that the ovaries will produce more than one egg These eggs are then extracted through a non invasive surgical procedure They are then fertilized with the partners or donors sperm The viable embryos that form are then implanted into her uterus No more than 2/3 embryos are implanted at a time The spare embryos are frozen

5 What happens to ‘spare embryos? Embryos can be frozen for 5 years, after this time they are destroyed as they are not deemed viable, but embryos have been frozen for years If a couple have had successful IVF and no longer require their frozen embryos, they can allow them to be used in research The HFE Act does not say that embryos cannot be created for the purpose of research but this is a difficult area and most of the research is done on ‘spare’ IVF embryos

6 How is embryo research monitored? The HFEA monitors the use of embryos in research = The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority They ensure that the rules set out in the HFE Act of 1990 are followed strictly Licences are granted to institutions that agree to stick to the rules Members of HFEA visit institutions to monitor the use of embryos in research Licences are evoked for breaking the rules and fines or a prison sentence can also result

7 AHE Act 1990 The Act allows research to be carried out on embryos up to the 14th day or until the ‘primitive streak’ appears This Act replaced the Warnock Report of 1984 The Warnock Report stated that the pre 14 day embryo was not a person but that it did have certain rights Those rights were not the same as an embryo in a womb Embryos that have been used in research are not allowed to be placed in the womb of a woman or non human

8 HFE Act cont The Act prohibits reproductive human cloning Anyone who transplants a cloned embryo into a human will be prosecuted No one can use an embryo without a licence issued by the HFEA Only human embryos can be transplanted in a human Embryos can be stored frozen for a maximum of 5 years Until 2007 it was illegal to create human animal hybrid embryos

9 Hybrid Embryos (human/animal hybrids) Hybrid embryos are those which have been created using either animal DNA, animal egg or animal cells and human cells The scientific community welcomed the u turn on the creation of hybrids as previously this was forbidden Hybrids are used to find cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, diabetes and spinal paralysis There are three types of hybrid embryos 1. Chymeric embryos: this is done by injecting animal cells into a human embryo 2. Human transgenic embryo: injecting animal DNA into a human embryo 3. cytoplasmic hybrid: inserting the nuclei of a human cell into the egg of an animal from which most genetic material has been removed

10 Hybrid Embryos cont It is not permitted to fertilize a human embryo with animal sperm or the other way around These embryos will never become living beings The third type of hybrid is the one most commonly used in British universities They provide a plentiful supply of stem cells Stem cells are immature (non specific) cells that can be grown into any type of tissue for research

11 Stem cells


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