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Schematic of human and mouse early embryo development

Azim Surani is a member of an international team of experts who have prepared new guidelines for research on human development, issued by the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) in response to rapid progress and technical developments in this field. Azim is also a co-author of two papers explaining the new recommendations for human embryo research. 

Some 45 experts in research, bioethics and policy spent 18 months compiling the guidelines, which are designed to inform national institutions and lawmakers who wish to regulate research in their country, according to the needs of their citizens.

The need for new guidelines has arisen from the rapid developments in stem cell research in recent years, such as the ability to keep human embryos alive in vitro right up to the current 14-day limit with potential to go beyond this, and the development of in vitro models of gametes. The working group and the ISSCR invite public debate and wide scrutiny of these sensitive issues so that any changes in the current regulatory frameworks in different countries around the world have the backing of citizens.

The guidelines suggest that research proposals to study embryos in vitro beyond 14 days should be reviewed individually on their merits and benefits before approval is given. And before approval could be given, a relaxing of the 14-day rule requires sufficient public support.

The guidelines will inform Azim Surani's own work on the origin of human primordial germ cells (the precursors of sperm and eggs) at approximately day 14 of the early human gastrulating embryo, and their subsequent progress towards the onset of development of gametes in male and female gonads at week 7, and on in vitro gametogenesis.

The new guidelines could enable research that is crucial for answering questions about human development and infertility and for validating alternative models of human embryo development. Better understanding of these areas could lead to new treatments for developmental conditions and other diseases.



The ISSCR Guidelines are widely recognized as the international standard for scientific and ethical rigor, oversight, and transparency in stem cell research and provide assurance that research is conducted with integrity and new therapies are safe, effective, and evidence-based.

Read the ISSCR's Guidelines for the Field of Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine.


Supporting documents are being published in Stem Cell Reports on 27.05.21:

Lovell-Badge R et al. ISSCR GUIDELINES FOR STEM CELL RESEARCH AND CLINICAL TRANSLATION: THE 2021 UPDATE, Stem Cell Reports (2021), DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2021.05.012. 

Clark AT et al. Human embryo research, stem cell-derived embryo models and in vitro gametogenesis: considerations leading to the revised ISSCR guidelines, Stem Cell Reports (2021), DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2021.05.008. 

Hyun I et al. ISSCR guidelines for the transfer of human pluripotent stem cells and their direct derivatives into animal hosts, Stem Cell Reports (2021), DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2021.05.005.

Turner L. ISSCR’s Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation: Supporting the Development of Safe and Efficacious Stem Cell-Based Interventions, Stem Cell Reports (2021), DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2021.05.011. 




Read more about research in the Surani lab

and about our role in the Human Developmental Biology Initiative, which could benefit from the new approach taken in the ISSCR Guidelines.




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Institute reopening

The Gurdon Institute reopened on Monday 15th June. Many staff will continue to work from home, and all staff may be contacted by email.

Studying development to understand disease

The Gurdon Institute is funded by Wellcome and Cancer Research UK to study the biology of development, and how normal growth and maintenance go wrong in cancer and other diseases.

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