June 20, 2007

What about all those frozen embryos?

An interesting paper looking at the potential fate of the nation's hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos will show up Thursday on the Science site (It's there now -- see also two related press releases from Duke and JHU). Ann Drapkin Lyerly (Duke Med Center) and Ruth Faden (JHU's Berman Institute of Bioethics) surveyed more two thousand infertility patients from across the country (response rate: 60%) about their preferences for the disposition of their leftover embryos. The authors report that among survey respondents who still had embryos in the freezer, 49% indicated that they were "somewhat" or "very likely" to donate their embryos for research purposes. This group expands to 60% if the question narrows the possible uses to stem cell research.

After making a few assumptions and taking the survey responses into account, the authors conclude that infertility clinic freezers currently hold somewhere between two thousand and three thousand potentially available and viable stem cell lines.

One other interesting finding from the survey: the number of respondents who reported being somewhat or very likely to donate their embryos for cloning research was larger than that of those who would donate their embryos to another couple hoping to have a baby.

-Greg Dahlmann

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