Human egg bank is planned by Shanghai's only sperm bank

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 April, 2004, 12:00am

Ethical and technological issues must be solved before the centre can go ahead

Shanghai's only sperm bank hopes to open an egg bank to help more infertile couples have children, but better technology is needed before the plan can be realised, the head of the clinic says.

Li Zheng, head of the Shanghai Sperm Bank at Renji Hospital, yesterday said the plan could also be affected by a potential debate over ethics. 'We are considering this plan, but it hasn't reached the concrete stage,' he said.

The egg bank would be the second on the mainland following the opening of the first at the Peking University First Hospital just last month, state media reported.

'The significance of this egg bank can't be estimated. The market will be large,' Dr Li told a local newspaper.

The clinic needed to make advances in technology before it could open an egg bank, and had started conducting animal experiments, Dr Li said. Challenges included making preparations for the freezing process, he said.

It is difficult to keep frozen eggs viable, but there have been a few births worldwide from eggs that were once frozen since the first successful case in 1986.

An egg bank also raises ethical concerns that had yet to be debated on the mainland, given the novelty of the concept, Dr Li said. The mainland has no laws or rules regarding donation of eggs.

The Shanghai Sperm Bank, set up in 2001, has just started offering what it calls 'reproductive insurance' to men, who can make a deposit for future use. The bank previously only accepted donations for use by childless couples.

But local media has reported that the sperm bank was suffering from a lack of donors because of traditional taboos.