Germany allows researchers to use newer stem cells

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German scientists have gained legislative permission to do medical research on stem cells obtained from new embryos, slightly easing one of the world's strictest laws on cell studies.

11th April 2008

Berlin - In a conscience vote, the Bundestag chamber in Berlin voted by 346 to 228 to loosen an existing law which forbids the killing of human embryos in Germany for research, though it allows use of embryo cells obtained outside Germany before January 1, 2002.

Christian churches and some conservationists had campaigned against any relaxation of the law, which was also a political compromise, arguing that human life began at conception and it was wrong to kill, even for the sake of science.

But parliament passed legislation altering the cut-off date to May 1, 2007 after scientists said their stocks of embryo cells were becoming too old to be useful and were needed to compare with the latest scientific findings using adult stem cells.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is a physicist, and her science minister, Annette Schavan, spoke in favour of the change, but the political parties kept out of the issue and allowed deputies to vote according to conscience.

Schavan told parliament Friday the embryos, which were surplus after test-tube conceptions, would have died anyway.

Scientists said about 500 new lines of cells dating from 2002 onwards were available abroad, and could now be imported by German research laboratories.


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