16 May 2005
Following approval by the cabinet in July 2003, the Spanish government has formally ruled this month that surplus frozen embryos from in vitro fertilization (IVF) programmes may be used for research purposes, to provide stem cell lines [see report by Bosch X (2003) Lancet 362, 1385]. The number of frozen embryos currently stored in Spanish clinics may be as high as 200,000. A national centre is to be established to maintain a registry of embryos stored in IVF centres and to create a bank of stem cell lines created from embryos. The centre will oversee research using these cell lines, including ethical issues. The creation of embryos for research purposes is not permitted, and parental consent will be required for the use of embryos from fertilization programmes. This is in line with an EU ruling from earlier this year, which restricted funding to research using surplus embryos created for fertility treatment only.
This ruling changes previous Spanish law on assisted reproduction in place since 1988, which forbade research on human embryos and stipulated that surplus embryos must be stored by clinics for up to 5 years. The new law requires that future embryos created by IVF remain in frozen storage for the full fertile period of the mother