Research gives glimpse of critical period of human development, sparking calls for debate on current 14-day legal limit for embryo experimentation.
Researchers have broken the record for growing human embryos in the lab, keeping them alive and active beyond the stage when they would naturally implant in a mother’s womb.
The feat has been hailed as a milestone in the field, but the work by two teams of researchers in the US and the UK puts scientists into direct conflict with a decades-old law that prohibits donated embryos from being grown in the lab for more than 14 days.
While the latest work was well within the limit – the embryos were grown for 13 days to the critical time when balls of cells are poised to start the process of sculpting the human form – the achievement has led to calls to revisit the legal limit .
The 14-day rule is enshrined in law in at least a dozen countries, the UK included, and while extending the allowed period for embryo research would be welcomed by some scientists, the move would be resisted by many, including religious groups already opposed to embryo research.
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