UK to allow hybrid human-animal embryos
By Tim Castle in London
May 17, 2007 09:13pm
THE way was cleared today for scientists to conduct experiments using hybrid animal-human embryos after the UK Government bowed to a storm of protest from researchers who said a proposed ban could hurt British science.
The Department of Health said it would accept a recommendation from the Commons Science and Technology Committee that inter-species embryos could be created for research.
Scientists want to use the hybrid embryos to find cures for illnesses such as Parkinson's, stroke and Alzheimer's.
In December, the Government had proposed a ban on creating the hybrid embryos, due to what it called "considerable public unease," with the door left open for later regulations that could allow such research under licence.
The change comes after sustained pressure from scientists and politicians who argued the hybrid embryos would help overcome a shortage of human eggs for research.
Researchers currently rely on human eggs left over from fertility treatments, but these are in short supply.
The hybrid embryos, which would be destroyed within 14 days, would be more than 99 per cent human but would contain a small amount of animal DNA.
Scientists say that any imposition of a ban would see research in other countries, such as China and Canada, overtake Britain.
The Government made its announcement as it published its draft Human Tissues and Embryos Bill.
The draft legislation as written still bars the creation of inter-species embryos, with the Government leaving it to a committee of MPs due to scrutinise the Bill to find the best way of allowing the research.