Scientists will make a controversial call this week to extend the current 14-day limit for carrying out experiments on human embryos to 28 days. The move follows recent breakthroughs that have allowed researchers to double the time embryos can be kept alive in the laboratory.
By extending the current research period, major insights into congenital conditions, heart disease and some cancers could be gained, they will argue at a conference in London on Wednesday.
But the move will be viewed as being highly provocative by opponents of embryo research and will be vigorously opposed by many religious leaders and politicians. Previous opposition to embryo experiments has been on the grounds that such research represents a slippery slope that will culminate in unrestricted research being carried out on living embryos.