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[BEIJING] China has tightened its rules on how researchers and clinicians can use reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilisation.

The new rules, issued by the health ministry on Friday (7 April), are intended to eliminate unethical practices.

In recent months, the Chinese media has reported that some hospitals have been selling assisted reproduction using eggs and sperm intended for research only.

Only 64 approved institutes will now be allowed to work with donated sperm and eggs.

The rules state that no sperm sample can be used for in-vitro fertilisation more than five times, and that the way each sample is used must be recorded in a central database.

The rules also ban the sale of human eggs, and state that egg donors must sign a consent form, and cannot provide more than 20 eggs.

Zhai Xiaomei of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences's Research Centre for Bioethics says the rules are significant as they add necessary detail to the four previous sets of rules released since 2001.

"In addition, by stipulating that clear records be kept of how donated sperm and eggs are used, the new rules could prevent researchers from misusing the donations," Zhai told SciDev.Net.

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