Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre

Project Items

An investigation of women’s experiences of an IVF egg sharing scheme for somatic cell nuclear transfer research


In 2008 Professor Erica Haimes was successful in obtaining a £295,000 award from the Medical Research Council (MRC) for a socio-ethical evaluation of women’s experiences of an ‘egg sharing for research’ scheme that is now operating in a fertility clinic in Newcastle upon Tyne. 

It is intended that results from this study will be reported here in the first half of 2012. Until then this space will provide background information about the study and its progress. 

The Newcastle ‘egg sharing for research’ scheme  (NESR) offers IVF patients reduced fees for treatment in exchange for eggs, which will be used in somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) research. 

SCNT is the technique in which the nucleus of an egg is removed and replaced with the nucleus of an adult body (somatic) cell from another person.

Also known as 'therapeutic cloning', the aim is to generate an ‘embryo-like’ entity from which stem cells can be harvested after about five days’ development.

These stem cells will thus carry the genetic material (DNA) of the somatic cell provider along with the small amount of the egg provider’s DNA present in the mitochondria. Please click for more details on the SCNT technique.

The NESR scheme has attracted some criticism as well as support from a range of people including scientists, clinicians, policy-makers, religious, and special interest groups.

However, the scheme gained approval from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) on the grounds that SCNT research will eventually lead to the creation of patient specific stem cell lines as described above.

These could then be used, for example, in the treatment of diabetes or Parkinson’s Disease without the cells being rejected by the patient’s immune system.  

Erica’s study is investigating the views, values and experiences of those women coming forward to provide eggs, in order to evaluate whether the potential scientific and therapeutic gains from SCNT research are achieved at social and ethical costs, or benefits, to egg providers.

This is the first empirical study of the subject and it will therefore provide vital evidence to inform the deliberations and practices of policy-makers, stem cell scientists, fertility clinicians, and the wider community, in the UK and worldwide.

The study will build on Erica’s earlier Wellcome Trust funded work on embryo donation to stem cell science.  

Download a project update for 2010-2011 (PDF: 266 KB).


Erica is exploring a number of collaborative ventures through the PARTS (Provision and Acquisition of Reproductive Tissue for Science) International Research Network which she launched in March 2009. Current partners are located in Canada, USA, Sweden, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand.  

Erica and Ken led a successful bid to host a symposium within the International Association of Bioethics World Congress, to be held in Rotterdam in June 2012, at which members of the PARTS network will engage in debate and discussion of issues arising, in part, from the MRC project findings.

Refereed papers

Erica Haimes, Ken Taylor and Ilke Turkmendag (2011) Eggs, ethics and exploitation? Investigating women's experiences of an 'egg sharing' scheme, Sociology of Health and Illness (in press, Vol 34(8), Nov 2012).

Erica Haimes and Ken Taylor (2011) Researching the relationships between tissue providers, clinicians, and stem cell scientists, Cell Stem Cell, 8(6), 613-15.

Presentations and posters

Download a list of conference presentations and posters (PDF: 296 KB).