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Bioethics think-tank calls for ban on chimera creation

14 August 2006
Appeared in BioNews 371

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics (SCHB) has published a report that supports a ban on the creation of human animal chimeras in biological research. The report, published in the journal Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics, calls for the UK to follow France and Germany and make the production of chimeras illegal.

The UK's legislation on human embryology is currently being reviewed by the Department of Health - it is thought that the use of human-animal chimeras will be addressed in any new draft legislation. Dr Calum MacKellar, director of research at the SCHB, writes in the report that procedures where human and animal cells or genetic material are mixed to form new embryos 'mix human and animal biological elements to such an extent that it questions the very concept of being entirely human'. This, he continued, leads to the raising of 'grave and complex ethical issues'.

A number of experiments have been carried out which have resulted in the creation of human-animal chimeras, including the transplantation last year of a human chromosome into mouse embryos. The mice from the experiment were then able to pass this human genetic material to their offspring. Experiments have also been done to transfer the nucleus of a human cell into cow eggs and rabbit eggs. Scientists think that such research could boost efforts to investigate diseases such as motor neurone disease. Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, is in favour of the research. 'By casting a negative light on a number of important research opportunities, this report may limit medical progress', he commented. In the UK it is currently legal to create human-animal chimeras as long as they are destroyed within 14 days.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Debate rages over animal-human chimeras
New Scientist |  11 August 2006
Embryonic, Fetal and Post-natal Animal-Human Mixtures: An Ethical Discussion
Scottish Council on Human Bioethics |  3 December 2021
Scientists call for a ban on some embryo experiments
The Scotsman |  8 November 2006
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