Creating hybrid human/animal embryos to help develop new treatments for disease would not be illegal in Britain but should be put to a public debate, a regulatory body said. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which oversees embryo research and fertility treatment, said the research could fall under its remit and would not be prohibited by law after a meeting of experts on Wednesday.
Scientists from Kings College London and the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI) in Newcastle have submitted applications to create hybrid embryos to develop new treatments for diseases such as Parkinson’s, stroke and Alzheimer’s.
By using animal eggs the scientists could overcome the shortage of human eggs left over from IVF treatments for stem cell research.
The HFEA announcement came a month after the government published a White Paper last month suggesting it could ban the creation of hybrid embryos, which would be 99.9 percent human and 0.1 percent animal. The scientists want to use cow eggs and human DNA initially to create the hybrid embyro to generate stem cells which are capable of growing into an cell type. The nucleus of the animal egg will be removed and fused with the nucleus from a human cell. It is the same technique used to create Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal. The early embryo would be destroyed within 14 days.
In a letter to the Times newspaper on Wednesday 50 leading scientists, ethicists and politicians said the research is not prohibited under a 1990 act. There would also be clear potential benefits for human health from the research.