Two papers in this week’s Nature and Nature Cell Biology¹² suggest that human embryos can now be cultured in the laboratory up to the current UK legal limit of 14 days after fertilisation.

Chair of the Council Jonathan Montgomery said,

At our annual ‘Forward Look’ planning meeting in February, the Council learned of potentially important scientific research that could be achieved by maintaining embryos in the laboratory for longer than 14 days. As a result of that discussion the Council agreed to explore whether arguments for reviewing the 14-day limit are gaining force, in the expectation that any move to review this limit will be likely to generate significant moral controversy and would require careful analysis.

Later this year, the Council intends to bring together invited participants with a range of perspectives on embryo research in order to evaluate whether, after 25 years, there may be persuasive reasons to review this legal limit, or whether the reasons for its introduction remain sound. It will publish a note of that meeting and then consider whether to undertake further work.


¹Shabazi MN et al. 'Self-organization of the human embryo in the absence
of maternal tissues',
Nature Cell Biology
²Deglincerti A et al. 'Self-organization of the in vitro attached human embryo', Nature