FAQ about stem cells and regenerative medicine - Stem cells and the law

Update August 2012: Our new stem cell map of Europe gives an overview of the laws governing stem cell research in different European countries. 

The EU's 25 member states take different regulatory positions on human embryonic stem cell research, reflecting the diversity of ethical, philosophical and religious beliefs throughout Europe. These differences are reflected in the laws of each country, summarised in this table (2007).

European diversity has led to vigorous debate when funding for embryonic stem cell research is discussed. In July 2006, European Ministers agreed to fund some elements of human embryonic stem cell research - allowing scientists in countries where human embryo experiments are legal to apply for funding for this work through the Framework Seven research programme.

Several European Directives, as well as the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (1997) are also relevant to human embryonic stem cell research. These regulations, especially as they relate to stem cell banking and databases, were discussed at a workshop on the Ethical aspects of stem cell repositories and databases.

Last updated: 
30 Sep 2012

The UK has a comprehensive and well-established regulatory framework for stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research is allowed subject to a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

For more detailed information about how stem cell research is regulated in the United Kingdom, see our summary: Regulation of stem cell research in the United Kingdom.

Last updated: 
30 Sep 2012

In the US, legislation and funding for stem cell research are closely entwined. At a federal level, scientists can't use government money to create new embryonic stem cell lines. All publicly funded work is confined to the 61 stem cell lines already in existence in 2001, when the ban on deriving new lines was implemented.

In July 2006 President Bush vetoed a Bill lifting that ban, based on his opposition to the use of public funds for projects involving the destruction of human embryos - the first time in his presidency he had refused to sign into law a Bill approved by Congress. Individual states have the authority to pass laws to permit human embryonic stem cell research using state funds. Several states have changed their legislation accordingly, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois. This has enabled the establishment of California's $3 billion Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Private funding of embryonic stem cell research in the US has never been prohibited – leaving this sector largely unregulated.

Last updated: 
27 Mar 2007

Have you seen the stem cell regulation pages on this website?

The following websites contain additional information on stem cell laws and policies around the world:


Last updated: 
1 Apr 2011