However, there is still so much we do not know about stem cells. Research is vital to advance our knowledge and make lifesaving treatments a reality.
We fund research that uses stem cells from human or animal embryos, and adult tissues, because we believe that both approaches are important. Many of the advances in stem cell research have only been possible through the knowledge and insight gained using embryonic stem cells. We recognise that this is an area some people have concerns about.
Embryonic stem cells
Embryonic stem cells used in research are donated by couples that have undergone in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. They have chosen to donate embryos that would have otherwise been destroyed, so that stem cells can be extracted from them for use in research. Only embryos at a very early stage of development (up to 14 days) can be used.
We'll only fund research using embryonic stem cells where:
- the application has been through a thorough peer review process, during which researchers must show that this project could not be carried out in another way.
- there is a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
- there is ethical approval from an independent Research Ethics Committee.
More work to be done
Heart and circulatory disease still causes more than one in four deaths, but stem cell research holds real promise for combating disease and saving lives in the future.
For more information please download our stem cell research leaflet, read our policy statement.