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Joint call for urgent regulation of human embryo research

CLEAR rules governing human embryo research must be established to enable regulators, researchers, and funders to assess whether stem cell generated models should be considered as human embryos, 2 leading experts from:- The University of Manchester have argued.

In a joint article published online by Policy@Manchester, Dr Jonathan Lewis and Professor Søren Holm explain that studies with:- "human embryo models" have the potential to improve understanding of some hereditary diseases, early miscarriages, and IVF outcomes.

But they warn:- "In most countries, including the UK, human embryo models are not formally defined in legislation, and are therefore not captured by regulations governing in vitro embryo research. While creating opportunities to explore aspects of embryo development that would generally be impermissible were real human embryos to be used, this regulatory climate has also attracted concern from stakeholders involved in human embryo model research."

The authors reference the HYBRIDA project; a 3 year initiative funded by the European Commission; which revealed that researchers were concerned about whether certain types of human embryo model research would be deemed to be creating human embryos and thereby excluded from EU funding programmes, as well as potentially running counter to local laws and guidelines.

However, Lewis and Holm stress that defining the human embryo for the purposes of human embryo model research:- "is no easy task."

They continue:- "There is a lack of consensus regarding what a human embryo is in terms of its defining properties and determining conditions. An alternative approach involves focusing on the typical functional capabilities of a human embryo (e.g. the capacity to form a human being). This would entail testing a human embryo model to see whether it possessed the relevant functional capabilities. The problem is that such tests would undoubtedly be held to be unethical because they would require implantation in a uterus."

The academics believe that:- "a regulatory definition of a human embryo" is therefore required. They write:- "This would not only ensure that sufficiently advanced human embryo models are, from a legal point of view, treated comparably to IVF embryos, cloned embryos, and other human embryos intended for research, but it would also allow researchers to develop and study human embryo models with a greater level of certainty as to what legislators and funders require of those models."

As a result, and as outlined in their final report for the HYBRIDA project, Lewis and Holm advocate 2 new measures. They argue that:- "individual countries and the EU Commission should develop a regulatory definition of a human embryo to provide certainty to researchers concerning whether their models are captured by legislation or guidelines for embryo research. This presents an excellent opportunity for the UK to be a global forerunner in developing such a regulatory definition for the purposes of human embryo model research and enshrining it in relevant legislation. And, that the UK and the EU must develop agreed standard clauses for collaborative agreements, to ensure that a commitment not to generate human embryos is recognised as valid in all countries participating in the collaboration."

The authors, Dr Jonathan Lewis and Professor Søren Holm, both conclude:- "Failing to respond urgently to these calls for regulatory reform could not only lead to potential legal challenges to the research being undertaken by those currently developing increasingly advanced and complex human embryo models but also severely impede cross border collaboration on which human embryo model research and its claimed downstream healthcare advances rely."

'Regulation of human embryo models is urgent' by Dr Jonathan Lewis and Professor Søren Holm is available to read on the Policy@Manchester website.

About Dr Jonathan Lewis... Jonathan Lewis is a Lecturer in Medical Law and Bioethics at The University of Manchester. His research is situated at the intersections of:- bioethics, law, philosophy, cognitive science, moral psychology, and health policy.

About Professor Søren Holm... Søren Holm is a Professor of Bioethics, at The University of Manchester. His research interests revolve around health care ethics, and the intersections between:- bioethics and law. Between:- 2021 and 2024, he was the Coordinator of the HYBRIDA project, which has sought to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework for organoid research and organoid related technologies. He was the Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics from:- 2004 to 2011 and has previously held the position of President of the International Association of Bioethics.

"A museum exhibit within 5 years? Iconic 'magstripe' train tickets nearing the end of the line" says Northern

THE train operator Northern says the iconic, orange:- 'magstripe' train ticket could be something of a museum exhibit within as little as 5 years.

Northern, who are the 2nd largest train operator in the UK, Northern says its customers' ever growing preference for digital tickets and the introduction of actual:- 'paper' tickets has seen them use 2.3m fewer:- 'magstripes' in the last 12 months.

The operator, which runs than 500 stations across the North of England, has told us that less than 20% of journeys made using a:- 'magstripe' on Northern's 2,500 services, from:- 2023 to 2024. They went on to say that the number of 'magstripe' in use has also fellen by 12% compared to its use between:- 2022 to 2023, a fall from:- 20.3m to 18m!

During the same period, the number of people using digital tickets on Northern services grew by:- almost 19%, from:- 54.8m to 65.2m.

A spokesperson for Northern said:- "All of our standard tickets are available in electronic format and people clearly enjoy the flexibility of buying their ticket:- 'on the go' and being able to store it on their mobile phone or tablet. We're also increasingly able to offer actual:- 'paper' tickets from our ticket offices and vending machines for those who prefer a physical proof of purchase. Whilst 'magstripes' might generate a sense of nostalgia, it's important to remember that because they're made from more than 1 material, they're less recyclable and could ultimately end up in landfill; whereas paper tickets can be easily recycled with other paper products. At the current rate of decline and with an ever greater focus on digital and paper alternatives:- 'magstripes' are definitely nearing the end of the line. They could be something of a museum exhibit within 5 years."

The current version of the iconic, orange:- 'magstripe' ticket was 1st used in 2014, when Northern was selected by the then Association of Train Operating Companies (now known as the Rail Delivery Group) to carry out a trial at stations across the North of England. They went on to become the standard ticket for all train operators and remain in use to this day.

Did you know that Northern released the information ahead of:- 'World Environment Day' that was on:- Wednesday, 5 June 2024, which is a United Nations led day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment?

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