Researchers in the US have announced that as of 11 April 2002, there were 396,526 frozen human embryos in storage in the US, of which a little over 11,000 were available for research. The majority of the others have been earmarked for 'future family building' (including by donation), according to a report released last week by the American Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Just under 9,000 embryos were going to be destroyed.
The survey collated responses from 340 of the 430 assisted reproduction centres in the US and, according to the authors, is the first ever true account of the number of human embryos in storage. The researchers say in the article that they 'sought to determine the number of embryos that might possibly be available for donation for research, as a way of providing information that might help clarify the debates about stem cell research'. The majority of those that have been made explicitly available by patients are not being used, as a policy imposed by President Bush forbids destructive embryo research by federally-funded scientists.
The researchers predicted that using the number of embryos available for research would enable the amount of embryonic stem cell lines currently available for research to be increased to about 275. Dr David Hoffman, lead author of the study said 'we are pleased to be able to bring some real data to bear on this topic. Too often, policy discussions about reproductive medicine seem to be driven by emotion rather than fact'.
Sources and References
400,000 human embryos frozen in US
Cryopreserved embryos in the United States and their availability for research
Few frozen embryos available for research: survey