University of Dundee, MSc Human Clinical Embryology and Assisted Conception - Apply now for September 2018
Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_90925

Lack of funding threatens progress in admixed embryo research

19 January 2009
Appeared in BioNews 491

A type of controversial admixed embryo research may now grind to a halt due to a lack of funding. Three research groups in the UK have licences to generate 'cytoplasmic hybrid' embryos, but none of them have managed to secure the money they need to proceed.

The embryos are created by transferring the nucleus of a human cell to an animal egg from which the nucleus has been removed, and are considered to be genetically 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent animal. They provide an alternative way of generating embryonic stem cells (ES cells), for which there is a lack of good quality human eggs available for research. ES cells can be used to study a number of diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and Type 1 diabetes. Carrying out such research requires a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), and the embryos must be destroyed within 14 days. This type of work has been condemned by several religious leaders. An attempt to ban admixed embryo research was defeated in May 2008, and it was legalised by last year's new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Nonetheless, the research is now languishing due to lack of funds. Dr Lyle Armstrong of Newcastle University has created 278 admixed embryos from human cells and cow eggs, but has no money to use them to generate the ES cells.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has increased overall stem cell research funding from £23.6m to £25.5m, however a greater proportion is now being funnelled into research in induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) , which are derived from adult skin cells, meaning there is no need to use embryos. iPS cell research was hailed as scientific breakthrough of the year by the US journal Science.

The funding bodies are vehement that they are not opposed to hybrid embryos. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, chief executive of the MRC, said of admixed embryo research: 'Clearly, we believe there may well be great potential for this avenue of research', but added that 'Fighting for the right to carry out such research does not mean that it should get priority over other applications which score higher and hold more promise'.

However, Dr Stephen Minger of King's College London - another of the current HFEA licence holders for admixed embryo research - is not reassured. 'People reviewing grants may be looking at this from a completely different moral perspective and how much that has influenced people's perception about whether this should be funded, we don't know', he said.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Funding halted for stem cell research
The Independent |  13 January 2009
Human-animal clone research halted amid funding drought
The Daily Telegraph |  13 January 2009
Rival stem cell technique takes the heat out of hybrid embryo debate
The Guardian |  13 January 2009
Uncertain future for hybrid research
BBC News Online |  13 January 2009
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
25 July 2011 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
Medical research involving animals that contain human material (ACHM) raises new ethical concerns and should be more tightly regulated, warns a new report by the Academy of Medical Sciences....
16 November 2009 - by Ben Jones 
The UK's Academy of Medical Sciences has launches a broad study into the scientific, social, ethical and legal implications of research on animals containing human genetic material. Such animals, mostly mice, are found in labs across the UK and mostly consist of animals into whose DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) single sequences of human genetic code have been inserted. However, with developing stem cell and other technologies, there is a perceived ethical crisis point ahead which t...
12 October 2009 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The UK's Independent newspaper has claimed that all research involving 'hybrid' embryos has been refused financial backing from the UK's research councils and has warned that scientists are taking their research abroad...
16 December 2008 - by Dr Megan Allyse 
UK-based research into deriving disease-specific stem-cell lines from human admixed embryos has been given leave to continue after a judge denied a request for judicial review of a decision by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to license the project. In January of 2008, the HFEA issued...
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...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in 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.