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Embryo research: destiny is what counts
  1. Alex Polyakov1,2,3,
  2. Genia Rozen1,2,3
  1. 1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Melbourne Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Reproductive Biology Unit, The Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3 Melbourne IVF, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to A/Prof Alex Polyakov, Department of Obstretrics and Gynaecology, The University of Melbourne - Parkville Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia-3052; alex.polyakov{at}

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The paper by Savulescu et al is timely and the concepts illuminated deserve further reflection.1 Reproductive tissue which includes sperm, oocytes and embryos are commonly treated differently to other human tissue, even when the reproductive potential of these has no possibility of being realised. This unnecessary exceptionalism hampers research in human reproduction, disadvantaging patients and delaying life-changing treatments from being incorporated into clinical practice. In jurisdictions where embryo creation is permitted for clinical purposes, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), supernumerary embryos are routinely discarded once they are no longer required to attempt pregnancy. We contend that research on such embryos, which will never realise their reproductive potential, is not substantially different to any other human tissue research and should not require any additional ethical or regulatory oversight. The only individuals who can possibly be harmed by such research are the tissue providers and their interests, including confidentiality and informed consent provision, should be protected. This protection once again is no different in its scope to any other type of research involving human cells and tissues. Most Western societies have moved away from the concept that ‘every sperm is sacred’ and it is time that the regulators and scientific community aligned with the prevailing communal norms and stop treating gametes and embryos as somehow holding higher moral value, compared with other human cell/tissue lines, provided that there is no intention to attempt a pregnancy …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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