UK might allow part-human, part-animal embryos for research

Reply Thu 1 Mar, 2007 12:55 am
Go-ahead signalled for animal-human embryos

By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent

British scientists will be allowed to create part-human, part-animal embryos for research into potentially life-saving medical treatments, the Government signalled yesterday.

Caroline Flint, the health minister, is considering removing a ban on such work from a draft bill that will form the basis for new laws on fertility treatment and embryo research.

Two teams of British researchers have applied for permission to create "cybrid" embryos that would be around 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent rabbit, cow, pig, sheep or goat to produce embryonic stem cells - the body's building blocks that grow into all other types of cells.

They want to use the stem cells to understand and provide new treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cystic fibrosis, motor neurone disease and Huntington's.

A draft bill to replace the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 is currently being drawn up. It is expected to be ready in May and is due to be included in the Queen's speech in November.

A White Paper published by the Department of Health in December stated: "The Government will propose that the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos in vitro, should not be allowed.

"However the Government also proposes that the law will contain a power enabling regulations to set out circumstances in which the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos in vitro may in future be allowed under licence, for research purposes only."

Many scientists were left worried that advances they believed could benefit large numbers of patients, especially those with nervous system disorders, would be outlawed and that Britain would lose its position as a world leader in stem cell science. The Commons science and technology select committee announced an inquiry into the issue, while the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority promised a public consultation.

Tony Blair said last month that although there were difficult issues the Government was "not dead set against" the creation of early hybrid embryos for research.

On Tuesday David King, the Government's chief scientific adviser, told the science committee that research using part-human, part-animal embryos should be allowed under tight controls.

At a hearing of the committee yesterday, Miss Flint was asked by Lib Dem science spokesman Evan Harris whether the draft bill being prepared could differ from the White Paper by not starting out with a presumption that such research be banned.

She replied: "We will take on board all the views. It is a possibility, yes."

Miss Flint said that within the field was a spectrum ranging from work that would be unacceptable to most people to other research that would pose less ethical issues, and she appeared to hit back at Sir David over his comments.

She added: "It could be that some areas, let's take for example the issue of cybrids, can be regulated by a simple process, but some of the other areas of chimeras might pose other questions that nobody might want to do down."

Dr Calum MacKellar of the Scottish Council on Scottish Bioethics, said: "Millions of people in the UK would see the creation of animal-human embryo combinations as the creation of very profound ethical problems. These are not just a pile of cells, but have a special moral status as a human person."


Source: The Daily Telegraph, Online report & page 8
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 504 • Replies: 1
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Reply Thu 1 Mar, 2007 01:09 am
Rather absurd dramatization considering humans are animals.
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