The government of the Netherlands is willing to allow growing human embryos “under strict and limited conditions” for research purposes, which would give hope to parents who have problems conceiving. The Dutch minister of health, Edith Schippers, said the aim is to “give people the possibility of (healthy) children”. The research has to do with infertility, artificial reproduction techniques and hereditary or congenital diseases. It also meant for people who became infertile after being treated for cancer at an early age.
Until now Dutch law only allowed tests to be conducted on leftover embryos from in vitro fertilization processes. Nevertheless, the so-called “14-day rule” – which says that human embryos cannot be cultured in the lab for more than two weeks – will still strictly be adhered to. According to the government statement, “until now the ban on the cultivation of embryos has hampered research which could help with the treatment of diseases on the short to medium-long term. ” The decision comes after Britain granted its first research licence to genetically modify human embryos for a project that will help women who struggle to get pregnant. Britain is one of the first countries in the world to grant this type of permission on one of science’s new frontiers. US-based scientists earlier this month reported they had grown human embryos in the lab for nearly two weeks, for the first time challenging the 14-day rule simply because no one had succeeded in keeping the embryos alive for that long. The scientists then destroyed the embryos in order to avoid breaching the two-week limit.