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Japan Finally Eases Human Stem Cell Research Regulations

Japan has adopted new rules and regulations related to embryonic stem cell research with effect from August 21, 2009, nature news reported. The new law provides more scope for scientists to conduct their experiments but is still restrictive. According to the new law, one approval step is needed instead of the former two, but the process has remained the same for deriving new stem cells.

The former laws that were set in the country in 2001 were quite lenient.

As per the previous law, researchers could use home-grown embryonic stem cell lines, or they could import them. However, the researchers required to get approval for their studies, from both Science Ministry commissions and local institutions which was a difficult process. Further the researchers had to conduct their experiments in separate facilities from teams conducting work on other types of stem cells.

The latest rules remove the secondary approval procedure for working with embryonic stem cells i.e. an approval from the local review committee is required while the researchers need to notify the science ministry of this.

Yet some heavy restrictions remain like the notification must include word-for-word minutes of the local review committee’s meeting and the two-stage approval process remains for deriving new cell lines.

Most of Japan’s stem-cell researchers have already been pushed into iPS-cell research through targeted funding programmes and are unlikely to go back to the ES-cell basics. So, it is doubtful whether the new law will have any effects.