MAD SCIENCE
The Island of Doctor Moreau: Now Taking Applications
..

The United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority says it will begin considering license applications from scientists who want to combine human cells with animal eggs in order to create new stem cells for research in curing debilitating diseases. Though it is still a far cry from Bush's infamous speech, I'm still dreaming an army of hybrids led by Marlon Brando in "white face" to come marching out of the labs, Val Kilmer and Fairuza Balk. An article outlining the reactions of various groups in the U.K. is available from The Independent.

If the only thing you can think about now is Fairuza Balk, then maybe you should track down Crispin Glover's "What is It?"

Posted by lance on September 13, 2007 11:40 AM

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is the UK's independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research. The HFEA licences centres carrying out In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), other assisted conception procedures and human embryo research, and provides a range of detailed information for patients, professionals, the public and Government.

Read about the HFEA's public consultation on the use of human-animal embryos. Read about current licensed projects for this research. 25/3/2008

Hybrids and Chimeras

Authority decision

The Authority made a decision about the policy for licensing of human-animal hybrid research at its open Authority meeting of 5 September. This followed a detailed public consultation on the issues.

Read more:

    * A summary of the Authority's decsion can be found in the final report (pdf). 
    * Read the press statement
    * Read the Authority minutes detailing the decision (pdf)
    * Download the Authority meeting papers detailing seperate elements from the consultation (item 8)
 

About the Consultation

The HFEA recently held a consultation on the ethical and social implications of creating human/animal embryos in research.

Hybrids and Chimeras Consultation document

Hybrids and Chimeras (888 Kb)

Researchers around the world are using stem cells from human embryos in research to develop their understanding of a number of different diseases. Many scientists now believe that embryonic stem cells may also, in future, lead to new therapies.

In November 2006, the HFEA received applications from two different research teams for a licence to derive stem cells from human embryos, created from animal eggs instead of human eggs. 

If this research is permitted, it will be the first time that scientists in the UK have created embryos in a research project which contain both human and animal DNA.

This consultation aims to explore public opinion on the broad range of hybrid and chimera research.

Since the consultation document was printed, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has published the report of its inquiry into hybrid and chimera research. Read more about their inquiry and report.

Public dialogue

During May twelve deliberative groups were held across the UK to help the HFEA to explore and understand public perceptions, motivations and attitudes to hybrid research. Half the participants of these groups were subsequently invited to attend a day long event, held in the first week of June. A short video this event can be viewed below:

Public Views on Hybrid & Chimera Embryos

In early July, an opinion poll will be carried out to further explore public opinion on this issue.

Public event

On Tuesday 26th June the HFEA held a public event to discuss the issues raised through the Hybrids and Chimeras consultation.

The event was chaired by TV's Nick Ross and a panel made up of:

  • Dr Lyle Armstrong - Lecturer in Stem Cell biology, University of Newcastle
  • Rev. Dr. Stephen Bellamy - Vicar of St. James' church Birkdale, Southport
  • Josephine Quintavalle - Co-founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE)
  • Christine Young - Special Parkinson's Research Interest Group
  • John Cornwell - Director of the Science and Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge and regular writer for The Tablet
The discussion was wide and varied with a mix of questions from the floor and polling questions.

Some of the key issues raised were;

  • Whether or not the research is necessary given therapeutic advances made in stem cell research to date have been from adult and cord blood stem cells.
  • The notion of boundaries in science and whether or not this type of research crosses a boundary in the species divide.
  • The efficacy of the proposed research, exploring if it is indeed possible, and if so how applicable research findings from hybrid embryos would be to human beings.
  • The use of potential treatments when animals have been used in their production or research.
  • Whether or not the moral and ethical reasons not to pursue the research outweigh the potential benefits it might bring.
Audio files

You can listen to the debate by downloading the following audio mp3 files:

Final Report

Report coverThe findings of the consultation and the decision made by the Authority on 5 September 2007 are summarised in the following report:

Hybrids Policy -Final  Report (895 Kb) October 2008

Press releases

Further information

If you have any questions about the consultation please contact:

    Helen Coath
    Policy Manager
    Tel: 020 7291 8238
    Email: hybrids@hfea.gov.uk

    This project is part funded by Sciencewise.

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