September 5, 2000
The American Infertility Association (AIA), a national nonprofit infertility patient organization, is encouraging the thousands of couples who have frozen embryos in storage to consider making them available for stem cell research now permitted following new guidelines released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
On August 23, 2000, the NIH issued new guidelines permitting federal funding to finance research on human embryonic stem cells. As a result, research that could lead to possible treatment for a broad range of diseases can now move forward.
"Thousands of couples who have experienced infertility have embryos in storage that they do not plan to use to achieve a pregnancy. This wonderful decision by the NIH gives many couples an important new option for these embryos. The AIA encourages them to consider making these embryos available in a way that will bring better health to everyone and perhaps even help more infertile couples to be able to have a baby in the years ahead," said Pamela Madsen, executive director of the AIA.
According to Jamie Grifo, MD, PhD, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at New York University Medical School, "While this decision by the NIH may lead to medical breakthroughs unrelated to infertility treatment, we are hopeful that it will have the added benefit of providing federal funding for in vitro fertilization research in the future."
Couples who have undergone infertility treatment and completed their families are often faced with the difficult decision of what to do with unused frozen embryos. Often couples donate their unused embryos to other infertile couples. Others are faced with paying ongoing fees to keep embryos in storage.
"Patients should be aware that embryos are also needed for approved,
privately funded research currently being conducted at many [in vitro fertilization]
centers around the country that would lead to improved treatment for infertility,"
said John Garrisi, PhD, director of embryology, Institute for Reproductive
Medicine and Science of St. Barnabas, in Livingston, New Jersey.