Enrich Adorn Lushes RedHead

Public backs hybrids to fight disease

By: telegraph.co.uk

Most people support the creation of early part-human, part-animal embryos for research into life-saving medical treatments, according to an opinion poll.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will tomorrow rule on whether scientists should be allowed to create the hybrids in order to produce embryonic stem cells – the body’s building blocks that grow into all other types of cells.

Two teams of British scientists are seeking permission to create cytoplasmic embryos, or cybrids, made using eggs from rabbits or cows that have had their nucleus replaced with genetic code from human cells.

These contain about 99.9 per cent human material and 0.1 per cent animal. The scientists want to use stem cells derived from them to increase understanding of and provide treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis and motor neurone disease.

The HFEA commissioned a poll of more than 2,000 adults as part of a public consultation on the subject.

When asked simply whether they agreed with the creation of embryos containing mostly human and a small amount of animal material, 48 per cent of respondents were opposed and 34 per cent were in favour.

However, when the phrase “if it may help to understand diseases such as Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease” was added into the question, the picture was reversed with 61 per cent in favour and a quarter against.

Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, said: “The HFEA’s consultation reveals welcome recognition of the potential of this research.

“Sixty-one per cent of the general public agreed with the creation of human-animal embryos – if it may help understand diseases – with only a quarter opposed to this research.

“It is heartening that the wider public agree with the scientific community that human-animal embryos offer the potential to better understand incurable illnesses such as Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease.”

Meanwhile the Government has published a draft Human Tissues and Embryos Bill which would allow the creation of cybrids, but not so-called “true hybrids” – created by fertilising a human egg with animal sperm or vice versa.

But a joint House of Commons and Lords committee scrutinising the draft Bill last month said all forms of hybrids should be allowed for research if regulators thought it beneficial.

Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, head of stem cell biology and developmental genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research, said: “The scientific case for allowing research on cytoplasmic hybrids, has been well made.

“Among many reasons, without wasting valuable human eggs, it offers a way to derive embryonic stem cells corresponding to individual patients suffering from a genetic disease, such that the disease or potential therapies can be studied on cells in the lab – rather than on the patients themselves.”

The HFEA will still need to examine the specific applications made by the research teams from King’s College London and the University of Newcastle after its general ruling tomorrow.

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September 5, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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