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60% of Infertile Couples are Okay With Allowing Unused Embryos for Stem Cell Research

DURHAM- A survey conducted amongst a thousand patients who have undergone fertility treatments using frozen embryos, has revealed that more than half of them are willing to allow the use of unused embryos for stem cell research. This was revealed during a study led by researchers at Duke University Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University.

These findings suggest that the number of embryos potentially available for stem cell research may be 10 times higher than previous estimates, resulting in a potential 100-fold increase in the number of stem cell lines -- groups of stem cells derived from a single source -- available for federally funded research.

Moreover, current federal policies do not reflect the preferences of infertility patients who have faced the very personal moral challenge of deciding what to do with their frozen embryos, according to the study.

This has significant implications for potential policy change on stem cell research, said Anne Drapkin Lyerly, M.D., an obstetrician/ gynecologist and bioethicist at Duke and lead investigator on the study. Previous research indicates that there are approximately 400,000 frozen embryos stored in the United States; if half of those belong to people who are willing to donate embryos for research, and only half that number were in fact donated, there could still be 100,000 embryos available for research. Earlier estimates placed the number of available embryos at about 11, 000, she said.

The researchers sent questionnaires to 2, 210 patients at nine infertility centers across the United States, asking them about their intentions for the frozen embryos they currently had stored. The study was funded by the Greenwall Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

While 49 percent of those who responded indicated that they were likely to donate some or all of their excess embryos to research in general, the number increased to about 60 pe
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