Regulation of stem cell research in Austria

Research on embryos, including the derivation of embryonic stem cell lines, is banned. The use of imported embryonic stem cell lines is not addressed by Austrian law and is therefore permissible.

Current legal position

Stem cell research is regulated by the Reproductive Medicine Act (Fortpflanzungsmedizingesetz) 2004.  Under the act, the procurement of cells from a human embryo for research purposes is prohibited.   Embryos cannot be used for any purpose other than for assisted reproduction. The use of pluripotent embryonic stem cells that have already been established in a lawful manner – for example, abroad, outside the territorial scope of the Reproductive Medicine Act – is, however, permissible. 

Ethical and regulatory oversight

The Austrian Bioethics Commission was formed in 2001 to advise the government, from an ethical point of view, on issues arising from scientific developments in human medicine, including stem cell research.  In a 2009 opinion, a majority group within the commission supported a plan to lift the ban on generating ES cells for research purposes, but called for restrictions on the generation of embryos for the derivation of embryonic stem cells.  A smaller second group within the commission supported a plan for much more restrictive legislation and recommended prioritization of funding for adult and ips cell line research. The two groups were not able to reach a consensus and these recommendations have not been passed into law yet. The 2009 Opinion, which includes a comprehensive overview of the legal situation and discussion in Austria can be found here (in both German and English).

Relevant laws, policies and links

Researched by

Sean Small

Reviewed by

Juergen Knoblich