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Panels revive sticky issues.

Panels revive sticky issues

Two controversial forms of medical research -- transplantation of human fetal tissue and fertility studies based on in vitro fertilization -- are receiving renewed attention from the U.S. government.

Following a temporary moratorium, in effect since March, on federally funded experiments involving transplantation of fetal tissue, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced this week that a panel of experts in law, medicine and bioethics will examine the difficult questions surrounding fetal tissue transplantation for the potential treatment of such disorders as Parkinson's disease and diabetes (SN: 4/23/88, p.260). The panel will address questions raised by Robert E. Windom, HHS assistant secretary for health, when he imposed the moratorium. These include whether the results of animal studies justify human research now and whether fetal tissue transplants, including those within families, should be prohibited. Scientists in several countries, including Mexico and Sweden, have transplanted fetal cells into humans, but such experiments have not yet been reported in the United States (SN: 1/16/88, p.40). The panel, which convenens in September, is expected to produce its final recommendations to the director of the National Institutes of Health six months later.

HHS also took the first step toward ending a de facto ban on federally funded research on test-tube babies. It reestablished an ethics committee, disbanded in 1980, to review applications for funding such research. The effect of the committee's dissolution was a moratorium on research in which an egg, removed from a woman, is fertilized and the embryo is then implanted in the woman's uterus. Although some 5,000 babies worldwide have been born via this procedure, it has a success rate of only about 15 percent.
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Title Annotation:fetal tissue transplantation and in vitro fertilization
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 23, 1988
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