Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Regulatory Rethink on Human Hybrids

A radical Government re-think on the law governing hybrid embryos will allow scientists to carry out virtually any work they like - if it is approved by regulators.

The move opens the door to experiments involving every known kind of human-animal hybrid. These could include both "cytoplasmic" embryos, which are 99.9% human, and "true hybrids" carrying both human and animal genes.

In addition "chimeras" made of a mosaic-like mix of cells from different species, and "human transgenic embryos" - human embryos modified with animal DNA - will also be allowed under licence.

Provision has also been made for the regulation of hybrid embryo research to incorporate any unforeseen developments that might arise in the future.

The revised Bill does more than even the committee asked for. It effectively removes the barriers completely, permitting the creation of all four currently envisaged types of hybrid embryo, subject to a licence being granted by the relevant regulatory authority - in this case the HFEA.

Allowing scientists to work on human-animal hybrid embryos will greatly speed up progress in stem cell research. Researchers hope to use embryonic stem cells (ESCs), which can transform into virtually any kind of body tissue, to investigate the causes of human diseases and develop new therapies for currently incurable conditions such as Parkinson's and type 1 diabetes.