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France’s stem-cell rules get even stricter

Posted on behalf of Barbara Casassus.

Hopes for an easing of restrictions on human embryonic stem-cell (ESC) research in France have been dashed.

A bioethics law adopted by parliament last week not only maintains the current ban with special dispensations, but has made scientists’ lives tougher still: “It is now up to us to demonstrate that we have no alternative to stem cells for a project, whereas beforehand the burden of proof was on the Biomedical Agency,” says Marc Peschanski, a neuroscientist working for INSERM, the national biomedical research agency, and head of the Institute for Stem Cell Therapy and Exploration of Monogenic Diseases in Evry.

At the beginning of the latest round of debate, scientists and politicians on all sides wanted to replace the current system by authorizing ESC research under strict conditions. But in the end the vote split along party lines, with the ruling rightwing UMP voting for the status quo and the opposition Socialist Party voting against.

French researchers now fear their country will be left behind in ESC research. “The biomedical industry will not want to invest in France, and researchers here will be encouraged to work in other sectors,” says Peschanski.

The new law must be updated by 2018.


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