Should Science Be Subjected to Any Limits?
VITAL research into devastating diseases could be put in jeopardy because of government opposition to plans to create part animal-part human embryos, it was claimed yesterday.In fairness to the scientists in question, it is not the intention to create freak beings.
A white paper published at the end of last year voiced doubts about research involving chimera embryos - which would be 99.9 per cent human and only 0.1 per cent rabbit or cow.
But scientists hoping to use the technology to create treatments for serious illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and motor neurone disease say they must be allowed to continue their work.
Professor Ian Wilmut, from Edinburgh University, leader of the team that created Dolly the sheep, was preparing his application for chimera research when the government said such work should be outlawed - at least initially. Yesterday, he joined scientists from London and Newcastle, who have submitted proposals for similar work, to call for a rethink by the government and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which issues licences for such studies.
They believe the views expressed by scientists during the consultation on fertility laws were submerged under a mass of responses opposing such research generated by organised campaigns by pro-life groups.
Prof Wilmut said the decision was “uncharacteristically short-sighted” from a government which had previously been supportive of medical advances in the UK.
Current laws would permit scientists to take animal eggs, remove the genetic material and replace it with that from a human such as a skin cell.However, if the creation of human/animal hybrid beings is being done here as a simple extension of embryonic stem cell research, why stop there?
This can then be turned into an embryo, from which stem cells can be harvested, before it is destroyed.
Scientists hope these cells can then be made into tissue so they can study the course of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone diseases and test potential new treatments.
Using animal eggs would overcome the shortage of human eggs which is hampering research efforts.
Although the egg comes from the animal, its nucleus is removed so that the eventual embryo is 99.5 per cent human.
Scientists have recently applied to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for permission to carry out such the first such UK experiments on rabbit and cow eggs.
However last month ministers unveiled their new White Paper for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in which they said the creation of such embryos should be banned.
If one accepts producing human beings essentially to be used for parts (like discarded Air Force planes in the “boneyard”), why not create a lifeform that is part human and part animal?
Once we decide that human life is not sacred, all kinds of things follow.