Canada Government Authorizes Embryonic Stem Cell Research for First Time

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 26, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada Government Authorizes Embryonic Stem Cell Research for First Time

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 26, 2006

Ottawa, Canada ( — The Canadian government, for the first time ever, has authorized embryonic stem cell research with taxpayer funds. Canada’s health agency says it will allow days-old unborn children to be destroyed for their stem cells in studies conducted by a team of researchers across the country.

The governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) gave conditional approval for the scientists to use both "fresh" and frozen human embryos in the research.

The agency reviewed the requests for funds for a year and has authorized the scientists to proceed with the $523,000 project.

The CIHR approval is condition and based on the receipt of consent forms from the couples who have donated the embryos from fertility clinics for the research. The Canadian Stem Cell Network, which receives federal funds, authorized the project last year.

The network’s executive director, Drew Lyall, told the Edmonton Journal newspaper that there’s "no reason" the forms won’t be process and the research advanced.

"It’s an important new project to be moving forward," he told the Journal.

The research comes one year after leading Canadian bioethicists said they worried women would be coerced into donating their eggs or embryos for research.

Andras Nagy of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, Jamie Piret at the University of British Columbia and Mick Bhatia at McMaster University will head up the research team. Last June, Nagy produced Canada’s first embryonic stem cell lines and made the two lines available to other scientists.

The stem cell network has not said how many human embryos will be killed for stem cells for the study.

Embryonic stem cell research has yet to produce any cures or treatments and never been tried on humans because of problems progressing past the animal research stage. Meanwhile, adult stem cells have produced dozens of treatments for patients with various ailments.