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New ethics report raises concerns about animal-human embryonic hybrids in the UK

08.08.2006
New Report on Animal-Human Chimeras and Hybrids

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics has just published a new report on the ethical implications of creating embryonic and fetal animal-human mixtures in the international journal entitled Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics (see http://www.geneticethics.org/current/index.html). The report can also be found on www.schb.org.uk

The report was written in the light of new draft legislation on human embryology being prepared by the UK Department of Health (which is to be published during the course of summer 2006).
(see: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/
cmselect/cmsctech/uc1308-i/uc130802.htm)
The potential power of embryonic and fetal inter-species mixtures became clear about a decade ago in a series of dramatic experiments on chickens and quails. The resulting offered astonishing proof that complex behaviours could be transferred across species.

Although moral intuitions about the creation of animal-human mixtures, especially at the embryonic and fetal level, may vary, it is subject to deep ethical concern to many for whom the creation of animals with certain kinds of human characteristics or with human brain and reproductive cells, would be offensive.

The report gives 16 Recommends, including that:

- the creation of an embryo containing cells made up of both human and animal chromosomes should be prohibited,

- the mixing of animal and human gametes should be prohibited.

Dr. Calum MacKellar, Director of Research of the SCHB, indicated in this respect that “the fertilisation of animal eggs with human sperm should not continue to be legal in the UK for research purposes” adding “most people are not aware that these kinds of experiments have been taking place in the UK and find it deeply offensive; parliament should follow France and Germany and prohibit the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos.”

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics is also calling on government not to use animal eggs to create cloned animal-human embryos in order to address the serious shortage of human eggs that are available. This procedure is currently unregulated by legislation in the UK.

Calum MacKellar | alfa
Further information:
http://www.schb.org.uk

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