IDARTSS (Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Uses of Reproductive Tissue in Stem Cell Science).

Project Leader(s): Professor Erica Haimes
Staff: Dr Ilke Turkmendag
Sponsors: William Leech Charitable Trust



This project, which aims

(i) to facilitate interdisciplinary debate on the ethical, legal and social aspects of the use of reproductive tissue in stem cell science and regenerative medicine, and

(ii) to encourage international dialogue to identify best policy and practice,

was developed by Erica Haimes (Principal Investigator) during 2009 with the assistance of funding from the William Leech Charitable Trust.  Human reproductive tissue is used for a variety of scientific purposes, but its use has been central to socio-ethical debate on whether this undermines moral attitudes toward human life in general.  More recently additional questions have arisen around the ways in which scientists acquire reproductive tissue and around the interests of those who provide it.  In order to sharpen existing analyses it is important that these concerns are brought together.

Dr Ilke Turkmendag, who completed her PhD in Law and Sociology at Nottingham University, was appointed as Research Associate on this project in January 2010.  The team is assisted by a Steering Committee from Newcastle and Durham Universities from theology, law, ethics, embryology, stem cell science, plus the internationally renowned ethicist, Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, until recently Chair of the Swiss Bioethics Commission.

The IDARTSS project also contributes to, and makes use of, the PARTS (Provision and Acquisition of Reproductive Tissue in Science) International Research Network.


Project Updates


July 2012

Dr Ken Taylor joined the project in April 2012 following the completion of the Wellcome Trust funded project on embryo donation.  Ken will draw on the IDARTSS literature review, transcripts of interviews and a range of other materials, to continue the development of the PARTS Principles. These will be an accessible set of practical guidelines, backed up by empirical evidence and philosophical argument, that represents current best practice in protecting the interests of the providers, acquirers and end users of human reproductive tissue (hRT).  Voluntary adherence by researchers to such guidelines would be a step towards engendering public trust in the aims and conduct of scientific research.

December 2011

Work in the second year of this project has focused on theoretical analyses of the literature surrounding the socio-ethical aspects of the uses of human reproductive tissue in stem cell, and other, research.  In addition, Ilke conducted interviews with a number of individuals with practical and/or theoretical interests in these issues.

The analyses have been greatly assisted by the members of the international interdisciplinary steering group, which met for the second time in August 2011 and who, between them, cover a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds and experience: Professor Christoph Rehmann-Sutter (scientist and ethicist), from Lübeck University Germany; Dr Robert Song (theologian) and Dr Shaun Pattinson (lawyer), both Durham University; and from Newcastle University, Dr Mary Herbert (embryologist), Dr Jackie Leach Scully (scientist and ethicist) , Dr Ken Taylor (scientist and social researcher), and Dr Simon Woods (ethicist), as well as Ilke and Erica.

The project has also benefitted from contact with others in the PARTS International Research Network, most notably with Francoise Baylis of Dalhousie University, Canada who worked with Erica and colleagues to submit a successful bid for funding on the uses of eggs and embryos in research in Canada..
Material from IDARTSS and Erica’s associated projects, funded by the MRC and the Wellcome Trust, was presented at, and contributed to, a number of national and international meetings as detailed below.

Ilke’s work on the project ended, after two years, at the end of  December 2011 as  she took up her Mildred Blaxter Fellowship from January 2012, but her input to IDARTSS continues in contributing to the writing of two major papers and to the activities of the PARTS International Research Network.

December 2010

Work has been progressing rapidly since Ilke joined the project. She has been conducting a literature review mapping the socioethical issues, and presented preliminary material at the University of York in June and at the British Sociological Association’s Medical Sociology Conference in September. She and Erica are writing a joint paper using this material with Professor Francoise Baylis of Dalhousie University, Canada.  The IDARTSS steering committee met for the first time in July 2010 to discuss the work done thus far and provided advice and guidance on progress.

Paper and seminar presentations:

* Ilke was invited to University of York, SATSU as a seminar speaker, ‘Providing and Acquiring Human Reproductive Tissue for Stem Cell Science: Socio-ethical Issues from an Interdisciplinary Perspective’, 15 June 2010;

* Ilke presented a paper at the Medical Sociology Conference, Durham ‘Providing and Acquiring Human Reproductive Tissue for Stem Cell Science: Scrutinising the Socio-Ethical Issues’, 2 September 2010;

* Ilke presented a paper at the British Sociology Association Annual Conference, London ‘Rescuing the Egg: Characterization of Human Eggs in Stem Cell Science’ 7 April 2011;

* Erica presented a paper, co-authored with Ilke and Ken at the European Association of Centres of Medical Ethics (EACME) 25th Annual Conference, Istanbul, ‘Bioethics from a Cross-Cultural Perspective’, ‘Women's views and experiences of an egg sharing for research scheme: does local practice have global implications?’, 16 September 2011;

* Ilke was a participant in the ‘Ethics of Family in Health and Social Care Research’ Consortium workshop in Uppsala, Sweden;

* Erica, Ilke and Ken submitted responses to the Nuffield Council of Bioethics Call for Evidence on ‘Emerging techniques to prevent inherited mitochondrial disorders: ethical issues’, with other PEALS colleagues, January 2012;

* Ilke has been invited to give a talk at the Bioethics Study Day, North Eastern Association of Women Graduates, Centre for Life, Newcastle, 29 September 2012 to talk about the ethical issues around mitochondria research;

* Erica presented ‘Is it more ethically challenging to provide human embryos or human eggs for stem cell research?’ as one of the speakers at the PARTS symposium ‘Ethical challenges in the uses of human reproductive tissue in scientific research’  within the World Congress of the International Association of Bioethics, Rotterdam, June 26-29 2012.


Professor Erica Haimes
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, PEALS Research Centre

Dr Kenneth Taylor
Research Associate