24 October 2011

Europe Court Rules Against Stem Cell Patent

"The use of human embryos for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it is patentable. But their use for purposes of scientific research is not patentable... A process which involves removal of a stem cell from a human embryo at the blastocyst [early embryo] stage, entailing the destruction of that embryo, cannot be patented." This statement was released early last week by The European Court of Justice.

Following a challenge by Greenpeace over a patent for nerve cells from embryonic stem cells, the issue whether a stem cell process can be patented was brought to light. And with this ruling, a number of research facilities and scientist are concerned that the ruling would threaten the future of embryonic stem cell research. Companies in Europe would be less likely to invest in stem cell research they say.

Video: Debate on Stem Cell research:

But Greenpeace and other supporters argued it was unethical to patent cells from a human embryo. They say that they are not opposed to stem cell research itself but to "the idea that patents can be granted for scientific discoveries as opposed to inventions". The European Court also saw it that way and ruled in their favor.

It is too early whether or not this can derail research and advancements in stem cell research. Early this month, Pfizer has already started doing human clinical trials to cure blindness in old people thru stem cell treatment.

Embryonic stem cells can be turned into any tissue in the body and as such, is an important tool in disease treatment.

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