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Spanish stem cell battle

Regional and national health ministries fight over plans for embryonic cell bank

Xavier Bosch(xbosch@teleline.es)

One of Spain's 17 autonomous regions clashed head-on with the national government last week by announcing plans to set up and run its own public bank of human embryonic stem cell lines.

The announcement by Francisco Vallejo Serrano, head of the Health Department of the Andalusian government, triggered a direct conflict with a law approved by the Spanish Parliament on October 16 that foresees a national bank to manage and store cell lines derived from embryos left over from fertility treatments.

The conflict dates back to October of last year, when the Andalusian government announced plans to exploit a loophole in national restrictions on embryo research. It said at the time that it would launch a research center in Granada to sidestep a 1988 ban on research involving "viable embryos."

Since that law also prohibits implanting embryos more than 5 years old, Andalusian officials argue that such embryos are...

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