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How is PTT regulated in the UK?

In late 2008, Parliament agreed that preimplantation tissue typing (PTT) was an acceptable form of embryo testing. They agreed that while PTT should be permitted, it should continue to be overseen by the HFEA through a system of licensing.  The remit of the HFEA ends once an embryo is transferred and there is a positive pregnancy test.


How the HFEA licenses preimplantation tissue typing

PTT is considered by the HFEA on a case by case basis. A clinic cannot go ahead with treatment until they have a licence for that case from the HFEA. 

The way in which cases are considered by the HFEA will depend upon whether or not the condition involved has ever been considered before. 

If a condition has never been licensed for PTT for any family in the United Kingdom, then the application must go before the Licence Committee of the HFEA.

If the condition has been considered previously, then the application can be approved by a committee made up of executive staff, called the Executive Licensing Panel. This panel meets fortnightly, meaning decisions can be made more quickly.  Where a condition has been considered before, clinics will be notified of the decision of the Executive Licensing Panel within 6 weeks. 

When the HFEA decides whether or not to grant a licence for a particular family case, the opinion of the child’s treating clinician (usually a consultant haematologist) is critical.

They must fully support the proposed treatment, and be able to demonstrate they have considered:

  • the likelihood of success of the treatment
  • the availability of alternative treatment
  • the suitability of any other available sources of tissue.


Regulation of tissue donation

The HFEA can only license the testing of embryos in order to create a tissue matched child. Decisions about individual donations of tissue from a tissue matched child are made with the consideration of the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), and the protection of common law. 

Cord blood collection is regulated by the HTA, can only occur with the consent of the mother, and must be carried out under a licence from the HTA. 

Donations of peripheral blood stem cells or bone marrow can only occur with the consent of the child, where the child is assessed as competent.  Where a child has not yet reached competence, a donation can only occur with the approval of the HTA.

For further information about the regulation of tissue donation and the collection of cord blood, we recommend you visit the HTA’s website.

Page last updated: 07 June 2010

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