The moral status of stem cell-derived embryo models

14/09/2023 - 15/09/2023
09:00 - 12:00
Photo of embryonic stem cells (red and blue colours)

This event will be organised as a closed workshop on September 14, 2023, including people with expertise in stem cells- and embryonic research, ethics and law, and as a mini symposium on September 15, 2023. The mini symposium is in collaboration with the Graduate program in molecular life sciences, BioMedical Center (BMC) at the University of Iceland and is open to the public.

Registration for the event will open in early 2023.

The event is arranged by The Nordic Committee on Bioethics


Currently, the 14-day rule in science policy and regulation, limits research on human embryos (outside the uterus) to the first 14 days of gestation. This is referred to as the 14-day rule. This means, that week 3-4 of human embryonic development is something of a “black box” because scientists cannot see what is taking place in the uterus during the early stages of gestation beyond the first two weeks. In recent years, progress has been made in early embryo research beyond the first two weeks, via “human embryo models,” developed from stem stells, and the study of mouse embryos. Making further use of these discoveries would, however, require researchers to go beyond the 14-day rule when culturing human embryos and embryo models. This raises various ethical issues, not the least concerning the ethical and legal status of such “embryo models” and it re-actualises the debate on a potential extension of the 14-day rule.

Various ethical dilemmas emerge, which forces us to think about moral principles such as the duty to prevent suffering and the duty to respect the value of human life. Where is the balance concerning the benefits these embryo models provide vs. ethical concerns? What is the legal and ethical status of human-embryo-like structures now and in the future – should it be the same for embryo models as for human embryos? What are the financial interests and how should they be regulated? Why should we want to go beyond the 14-day rule? What are the particular questions that arise from a Nordic point of view with regards to the moral status of a human embryo model and culturing human embryos beyond the 14 days?

More information about the program, speakers, venue and registration will follow soon.