Leading expert to advise on ethics at national level


Distinguished  Professor Stephen Wilkinson

A Distinguished Professor at 山ּ has been appointed to a national working group to assess and advise on the ethical and regulatory issues raised by research using human stem cell-based embryo models (SCBEMs).

Distinguished Professor of Bioethics Stephen Wilkinson, who is a member of the (NCoB), the UK’s leading independent body for bioethics and policy research, will also sit on the Council’s rapid review project, it was announced today.

The group, which brings together leading experts from a range of backgrounds, will be chaired by Emma Cave, Professor of Healthcare Law at the University of Durham.

It will address important ethical and regulatory questions raised by SCBEMs including:

  • Could embryo models merit the requirement for special protections?
  • Are current UK governance mechanisms suitable and sufficient?
  • How will governance mechanisms need to evolve as science advances and embryo models become more sophisticated?

Professor Wilkinson said: “I’m very pleased to be joining the working group. Human stem cell-based embryo models raise some fascinating and important ethical and policy questions and I look forward to collaborating with colleagues from across different disciplines to support the Council’s work in this area.”

SCBEMs are embryo-like structures, created in a laboratory, using human stem cells rather than eggs and sperm. These models mimic the processes that occur in early human embryo development. Scientists hope that research on SCBEMs will lead to valuable insights into why so many pregnancies fail during the first 21 days of embryo development and why congenital birth anomalies, such as spina bifida, occur.

In November 2023, the HFEA, the UK’s fertility regulator, on modernising UK fertility law. SCBEMs were identified as being a pressing concern and it was recognised that regulation needs to be future-proofed’ so that it can keep pace with rapidly developing biotechnologies like SCBEMs.

With the completion of this review, the NCoB hope to provide robust, actionable recommendations for decision makers working in this area before the end of this year.

Professor Wilkinson is a leading expert on reproductive ethics and the regulation of reproductive technologies. He is currently Principal Investigator of a ?1m Wellcome-funded grant, .

This innovative, interdisciplinary research programme explores the cultural, ethical, legal and social challenges that will emerge as technological advances fundamentally change the possibilities for human reproduction.

A full list of the members of the working group can be found .

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