Press releases

The Inserm Ethics Committee publishes two notes on embryo research and gender research

17 Jun 2014 | By Inserm (Newsroom) | Institutional and special event

At their first big annual meeting, which took place on Tuesday 17 June this year at the Auditorium of Georges Pompidou European Hospital, several working groups from the Inserm Ethics Committee, including the “Embryo and Development” and “Gender and Health Research” groups, delivered their opinions in the form of notes.

These constitute an interim report with recommendations for practical measures that can be taken at Inserm to develop embryo research under the best ethical conditions, and make scientists aware of the impact of gender on health research.


©Inserm/ E. Valjent

The Inserm Ethics Committee, all members of which were reappointed last year, has the role of creating dialogue between the world of medical research and society. It currently comprises seven working groups addressing different themes. These groups may be requested to reflect on ethical questions, or may do so on their own initiative.

Synopsis of the note from the “Embryo and Development” group

This group is interested in research that involves obtaining germ cells and gametes from stem cells, cognitive embryo research, and embryo research likely to improve infertility treatment and the outcomes of medically assisted reproduction.

The working group concludes its reflection by giving indications that might be considered in order to advance embryo research:

  • Facilitate and promote embryo research, by developing information for the public and for decision-makers, by identifying this research theme more clearly among those likely to be funded by public bodies, and by more rational organisation of the collection, storage and distribution of frozen embryos intended for research in dedicated “embryo bank” type structures.
  • Review the regulation of this research, which must remain equally strict, but which should be more appropriate, more consistent and more straightforward.
  • Tailor consent procedures to the type of embryo donated to research and to the time at which this donation becomes effective. This revocable consent might be given for one (or several) categories of research instead of for a specific project.
  • Draw up guidelines or recommendations with researchers and practitioners in medically assisted reproduction whenever necessary, such as criteria for freezing embryos or procedures for destroying them, for example. These guidelines and recommendations should be revised regularly and simply in line with technological advances and developments.

Read the entire content of the note on the Ethics Committee website in French

Synopsis of the note from the “Gender and Medical Research” group

The “Gender and Medical Research” group was established to raise awareness among Inserm’s researchers of male/female equality. It also aims at being heard beyond Inserm’s laboratories, by participating in public debates that are accessible to all—patients, physicians and those involved in health research.

Sex-based differences in the area of public health have been well documented in epidemiological surveys. However, it must be acknowledged that studies aimed at understanding such differences from a gender perspective remain rare in France, in contrast to Anglo-American and other European countries.

The gender dimension is also often neglected in biomedical research. There are few studies that reflect on the contribution of social factors to differences between the sexes in terms of physiology and pathology.

The group proposes the following courses of action:

  • Survey those research projects carried out at Inserm that have a gender dimension, in collaboration with the human and social sciences laboratories.
  • Organise educational workshops on the concept of gender and the interaction between gender and health, with the following aims:

– Making researchers aware of the fact that biology should not mask the role played by social constructs in health behaviours.

– Questioning clinical procedures for management, treatment, screening and follow-up through the gender prism.

– Developing new methodological approaches for research with the inclusion of gender as factor in understanding the normal and pathological.

– Areas of research touched on will include reproductive health, endocrinology, cardiology, neuroscience, etc., and the implications for public health.

  • Draw up recommendations for Ethical Research Committees (CPP in French) and Regional Spaces for Ethical Reflection (ERRE in French) to introduce the question of gender in the examination of clinical research protocols in accordance with recent European regulations.

Read the entire content of the note on the Ethics Committee website in French

For Hervé Chneiweiss, Chairman of the Inserm Ethics Committee, this first big meeting: “is not only a time to report on our first year’s work; it is also a time for engaging in dialogue with our colleagues and the wider public, listening to their criticisms, and hearing their questions, all of which will contribute to our work in the coming year.”

Researcher Contact
Hervé Chneiweiss
Hervé Chneiweiss

Président du comité d’éthique de l’Inserm
téléphone portable sur demande