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UK science and technology committee begins embryo inquiry

28 January 2007

By Dr Jess Buxton

Appeared in BioNews 393

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee will hold its first evidence session this week in a new inquiry into the Government's proposals for the regulation of the creation of animal/human hybrid and chimera embryos for research purposes. The MPs will hear from scientists and members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) this Wednesday. The Select Committee launched its inquiry following the publication of a Government White paper last month, which proposed that the creation of such embryos should be banned in new legislation.

The HFEA has announced that it will hold a public consultation on the issue, after it deferred making a decision on two licence applications from scientists who want to use rabbit or cow eggs to generate human embryonic stem cells (ES). The teams - lead by Dr Stephen Minger, of King's College London, and Dr Lyle Armstrong, of the University of Newcastle - both want to use 'enucleated' animal eggs in such research. Genetic material from human patients could then be added to these 'hollowed-out' eggs, and the resulting embryos used to create ES cells that are virtually human.

This Wednesday, the Select Committee will hear evidence from Dr Armstrong, as well as Professor Chris Shaw, of the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London and Professor Austin Smith, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Cambridge. Later, it will hear from Ms Shirley Harrison, the HFEA's new Chair, as well as Chief Executive Angela McNab and authority member Professor Neva Haites.

UK law currently makes no reference to embryos that contain both animal and human material, but the recent White Paper proposes that the creation of 'hybrid and chimera' embryos should not be allowed when the legislation is updated in 2008. However, it also adds that the new law will contain a power allowing future regulations to set out the circumstances under which such research could be licensed. Earlier this month, 45 UK scientists, academics and politicians expressed their support for the use of animal eggs in research in a letter to the Times newspaper.

The Select Committee is expected to report before the anticipated publication of the Government's draft Human Fertility and Embryology Bill in March. Anyone who wishes to attend this week's evidence session should see 'Recommends' for details of this meeting.

Dr Jess Buxton is Contributing Editor at BioNews and a Trustee at the charity that publishes it, the Progress Educational Trust (PET). She is co-author of The Rough Guide to Genes and Cloning (buy this book from Amazon UK) and Human Fertilisation and Embryology: Reproducing Regulation (buy this book from Amazon UK).

House of Commons Science and Technology Committee | 23 January 2007
The Scientist | 11 January 2007


21 January 2008 - by Katy Sinclair 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) License Committee has granted two one-year licenses permitting scientists at Kings College London and Newcastle University to carry out research using human-animal embryos. Over the past 12 months the HFEA has been deliberating on whether the creation of embryos using...
10 September 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has agreed in principle to allow the creation of embryos that contain both human and animal material. 'Cybrid' embryo research - a technique to derive human embryonic stem (ES) cells using 'hollowed-out' animal eggs - has been the focus of...
19 June 2007 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The UK's Academy of Medical Sciences has backed the creation of human-animal embryos for use in stem cell research, which is says should be subject to the same rules as research on human embryos, including the 14-day rule and a ban on implanting embryos into a...
21 May 2007 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The UK Government has published a draft version of the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. The proposals will amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. As it stands, the Bill will ban the creation of embryos that contain genetic material from both animals...
10 April 2007 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has challenged the UK Government's decision to propose a ban on the creation of hybrid or chimera embryos, calling such a move 'unnecessary'. In the report, the MPs said: 'We find that the creation of human-animal chimera or hybrid...

15 January 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has announced that it will hold a public consultation on the use of animal eggs in human embryo research. The decision follows a meeting held last week, at which the authority considered applications from two teams who want...
15 January 2007 - by Nick Meade 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has announced a public consultation on the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos. Scientists want to use such embryos to create genetically human embryonic stem cells(ES cells). This method would overcome difficulties associated with the collection of human eggs from donors, and would...
07 January 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
UK scientists hoping to use animal eggs in human embryonic stem (ES) cell research face a ban on their work, if proposals outlined in a recent White Paper become law. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates all human embryo research carried out in...
17 December 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
On Thursday 14 December, UK Public Health Minister Caroline Flint announced the publication of the British Government's proposals for a major overhaul of the law on assisted human reproduction and embryo research. The proposals, contained in a new 'White Paper', follow an extensive public consultation exercise...
13 November 2006 - by Stuart Scott 
Two teams of British scientists have applied for licences to create hybrid embryos from human and animal cells in order to create stem cells. The North East England Stem Cell Institute - a biotech research body run by the Universities of Durham and Newcastle - and the Stem Cell...

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