Dec 7

Mexico’s Human-Embryo Research on Tenterhooks

Fabián Díaz achieved a milestone last year when he derived the first human embryonic stem-cell line from cells of Mexican origin. Biologists across Mexico now use the stem cells, which Díaz — a researcher at the National Institute of Perinatology in Mexico City — created using embryos discarded by a fertility clinic. However, in recent months, Díaz has put his stem-cell research on hold as he is waiting to see whether Mexico’s legislature will approve an amendment to the national health law that would ban experiments with human embryos. The proposal is winding its way through the legislature’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. To become law, it would have to be approved by the legislature and by Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto. The amendment is intended to regulate assisted reproduction, including the payment of surrogate mothers, donations to egg and sperm banks and the fertilization of more than three eggs at a time. But it would also ban the creation of human embryos for any purpose except reproduction and any research with existing human embryos. Such restrictions are intended to address Mexico’s thriving reproductive tourism industry, which has few protections for surrogate mothers. But the proposed amendment would have prohibited a scientific world first that took place in Mexico: the conception of a baby with DNA from three people. The child was born in April. His parents, who are from Jordan, used the treatment to prevent their baby from inheriting a disease that would otherwise be passed down through his mother’s mitochondrial DNA.

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