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Human/animal hybrid embryos are 'easy' to make

23 June 2008
Appeared in BioNews 463

The creation of human/animal admixed or 'hybrid' embryos is happening at a rapid rate, according to the experts developing them at Newcastle University, who say that the process is easier than they initially thought.

Speaking at the BIO biotechnology conference in San Diego last week, Dr Lyle Armstrong, leader of the human/animal hybrid embryo project, explained that the technique of  inserting genetically empty cow eggs with human DNA from skin cells has already produced about 270 hybrid embryos. No other research group in the world has spoken of producing these embryos on such a large scale. 'We might be able to get eight to 10 human oocytes [eggs] of sufficient quality per month', Armstrong told the Financial Times newspaper. 'We can get 200 cow eggs a day from the local meat industry', he added.

The process was developed with the intention of overcoming the shortage in supply of human eggs for the production of stem cell, which are subsequently used for research into a wide range of currently incurable diseases, such as diabetes, strokes and Parkinson's. Amid intense opposition from religious groups and pro-life lobbies, Armstrong insists that the creation of these embryos is ethically sound. 'The embryos are mostly self-regulating, because they arrest naturally at 32 cells - which is quite good from an ethical point of view', he said, adding: 'There is no way these embryos could develop into a foetus'. The law does not permit the development of a hybrid embryo beyond 14 days.

Until now, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) granted permissions to research such as this on a case-by-case basis, since no existing law was applicable to it. However, the new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is expected to pass through Parliament shortly and looks likely to provide a firm legal basis for hybrid embryo research. In January, the House of Lords refused to reject clauses in the bill that allow the research, despite pressure from opponents, and last month, MPs voted down a bid to ban human admixed embryo research by 336 to 176 votes and another to ban true hybrids by 286 to 223 votes.

Scientists find hybrid embryos easy to make
The Financial Times |  20 June 2008
U.K. Researcher: Creation of Human/Animal Hybrid Embryos is Easier than Expected
Life Site |  20 June 2008
UK university's success with hybrid embryos
UK Trade and Investment |  20 June 2008
28 November 2008 - by Dr Megan Allyse 
Two independent pressure groups are claiming that licenses allowing research into the creation of human admixed embryos are unlawful and that research should be halted immediately. A UK High Court judge heard arguments in London last Wednesday on whether or not to initiate judicial review of the...
7 July 2008 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Two announcements made last week have important implications for the future progress of human stem cell research in the UK. Both were related to research involving 'therapeutic cloning' - the creation of stem cell lines from patients with incurable diseases (such as Alzheimer's and cardiomyopathy) in order to...
27 May 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens 
The creation of human admixed or 'hybrid' embryos - which contain both human and animal material - is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill, and is an issue on which UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown bowed to pressure for a free vote by MPs, following...
27 May 2008 - by Katy Sinclair 
By Katy Sinclair: The UK Government has defeated a bid to prevent the creation of human admixed embryos, after a cross-party attempt to ban the controversial research was lost by 336 votes to 176. The vote followed the debate stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Amendments to ban...
7 April 2008 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Scientists based at the University of Newcastle have announced the successful creation of human hybrid embryos, made by inserting human genetic material into 'hollowed out' cow eggs. Team leader Lyle Armstrong presented the preliminary data at a conference in Israel. The team hopes that such embryos...
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...
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