Researchers in Europe are holding their collective breath as a European court tries to decide whether to ban patents on technologies that use human embryonic stem cells, says Veronique Greenwood at the 80beats blog. Scientists warn that if this ban is imposed and labs can no longer make money from their discoveries, regenerative medicine will not go further than the bench, she adds. Although the use of human embryonic stem cells has been limited in the US, Europe imposed fewer restrictions on the field, and researchers there have been able to make greater leaps forward. In March, however, the court's advocate general gave his opinion that the patents should be banned, saying they violate an EU law that prohibits the use of human embryos for commercial purposes, Greenwood says, adding that the court usually follows the advocate general's recommendations. Thirteen scientists from the Wellcome Trust published an appeal in Nature arguing that hESCs are cells lines and, as such, are derived from human embryos, but are not dependent on them for a supply of cells. Therefore, the appeal adds, patents based on hESCs do not violate the law.
Apr 29, 2011