Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hybrid embryos: fait accompli ?

In Scientists triumph in battle over ban on hybrid embryos, The Times reports that plans to outlaw the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for potentially life-saving stem cell research are to be dropped after a revolt by scientists.

The report continues:

"The proposed government ban on fusing human DNA with animal eggs, which promises insights into incurable conditions such as Alzheimer’s and motor neurone disease, will be abandoned because of concerns among senior ministers that it will damage British science.

While ministers will not endorse the research in full yet, they are no longer seeking legislation to prohibit it, The Times has learnt. The Government will instead provide the fertility watchdog with funds for a public debate on the subject before new laws are drafted.
This will allow the authority to mount a “public engagement” programme, involving citizens’ juries and in-depth opinion research, rather than simply inviting submissions from pressure groups.

Scientists are keen to use animal eggs to create cloned human embryos as laboratory models for studying disease. DNA from a patient with a condition such as motor neurone disease would be inserted into the shell of a rabbit or cow egg from which the nucleus has been removed. The embryo would be 99.9 per cent human, and would carry genetic errors implicated in the disease in question. It would then be split up to create stem cells, for studying the condition’s progress and testing new drugs. "

From the article, it would appear that the forthcoming "consultation" by the HFA on "chimeras" is to be window-dressing and that the decision has already been made.