Page URL:

Parliamentary committee backs 'hybrid embryos'

10 April 2007
Appeared in BioNews 402

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 embryos, and specifically cytoplasmic hybrid embryos, is necessary for research'. They expressed concerns that a ban would not only inhibit early research in a potentially benefit-inducing field, but that it would cause UK scientists to move abroad to conduct their research, calling the issue 'a test of the Government's commitment to science'.

As support for the research was expressed by MPs, 223 medical charities and patient organisations delivered a letter to Tony Blair urging him not to prohibit the technique. It is hoped the creation of hybrid embryos may provide a solution to the current egg shortage encumbering UK stem cell researchers, which may be slowing the rate of progress of research into cures and treatments for conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson's and motor neuron disease.

The Government decided to propose legislation to ban the research after a public consultation, criticised as 'deeply flawed' by the Committee, was carried out which revealed opposition - albeit in a largely organised response - to the creation of hybrid embryos. The Government is due to publish a draft bill on the matter next month. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has since received two licence applications for the creation of hybrid embryos for research, but has kept them under review pending the results of its own public consultation on the issue. The Science and Technology Committee expressed dissatisfaction with the hold-up. 'We are critical of the HFEA for delaying assessment of applications for licences to create cytoplasmic hybrid embryos for research', stated the report.

In a response to the Committee's comments, the UK's Royal Society issued a statement in which it said: 'A statutory ban is unnecessary. It would undoubtedly hinder the progress of UK stem cell science and strip the HFEA of a role it was created to provide', continuing 'it is imperative that the development of new scientific techniques is not hampered by heavy-handed legislation'. The Royal Society's comments come as part of a swell of scientific support for the technique emerging as the debate ensues. One of the applicants to the HFEA for a licence to create such embryos, Dr Stephen Minger, commented that, 'this is a way of creating research material we don't have in the areas of catastrophic illness where there is almost no therapy whatsoever'.

Opponents of the new technique have relied on arguments over the intrinsic wrongness of mixing species - even though the resulting embryo would be typically 99.5 per cent human and destroyed after 14 days - and argue the research is not needed. Josephine Quintavalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) said that, 'Despite the enthusiasm of this small committee, worldwide there is more opposition than support for the creation of such entities, and within the United Kingdom as well'.

Ban on human-animal embryos is unacceptable, MPs say
The Guardian |  5 April 2007
BMA Calls For Government Rethink On Embryo Research, UK
Medical News Today |  4 April 2007
Government proposals for the regulation of hybrid and chimera embryos
House of Commons Science and Technology Committee |  5 April 2007
Hybrid embryo ban 'unnecessary'
BBC News Online |  5 April 2007
13 June 2016 - by Dr Jane Currie 
Scientists have used CRISPR to create part-pig, part-human embryos in an attempt to grow human organs for transplant...
24 June 2013 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Researchers in Japan are one step closer to being able to implant human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into an animal embryo. Their aim is to grow a fully-grown human pancreas in an animal, a pig, and ultimately harvest and transplant such organs into patients...
9 January 2012 - by Suzanne Elvidge 
Three chimeric rhesus monkeys born in the USA have been described as the world's first primate chimeras...
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...
10 April 2007 - by Dr John Gillott 
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's report, 'Government Proposals for the Regulation of Hybrid and Chimera Embryos', is its response to two related events: firstly the UK Government's intention to outlaw the creation of such entities, announced in December 2006 in its White Paper (1), and secondly the...
5 March 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The UK Government's chief scientific adviser has expressed his support for proposals to use animal eggs in the creation of human embryonic stem (ES) cells for research purposes. Sir David King said last week that such work should be allowed under tight regulations, adding that it...
19 February 2007 - by Khadija Ibrahim 
The Human Genetics Commission (HGC) has given its backing to the creation of animal-human hybrid and chimera embryos for research purposes. The Government advisory body made the announcement at their most recent plenary meeting, in response to the current debate about whether research that involves the mixing...
28 January 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
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...
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...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.