MUMBAI, October 20, 2005 ( – Indian stem cell researchers are frustrated by their inability to create stem cell lines from frozen IVF embryos and are calling for relaxation of the rules to allow them to create embryonic humans explicitly for research.

More researchers who try to obtain stem cells from frozen embryos are complaining that the procedure of thawing so damages the embryo that no cells can be obtained. “Some embryos get destroyed during thawing. Some don’t make it to the blastocyst stage. And some don’t produce stem cells,” said fertility specialist Deepa Bhartiya.

“This restriction of using only frozen embryos slows down research,” said Bhartiya, assistant director at the National Institute of Reproduction and Reproductive Health, Mumbai.

Bhartiya’s is one voice among a growing demand for relaxation of the “ethical norm” that says using living embryos for medical research that ends their lives is acceptable, but specifically creating them in order to kill them for their parts is not. The reluctance of some national ethics boards, however, is based only on the shifting sands of popular opinion and not on any objective criterion such as “thou shalt not kill.” In the weird world of modern bioethics that bases itself on utilitarian principles, an “ethical norm” can be changed if there is enough demand.

Thus it is thought that allowing the creating of “fresh” embryos is only a matter of time.
“Such procedures are allowed in South Korea and the UK. India’s losing time,” said Satish Totey, the director of the stem cells centre at the Manipal Hospital, Bangalore.