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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Green light for human-animal embryo research

There has been a mixed reaction to a decision by British medical research regulators to allow, in principle, the creation of hybrid embryos from humans and animals. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has cleared the way for scientists researching degenerative diseases to inject human DNA into cow or rabbit eggs. The resulting stem-cells from the hybrid embryos could lead to new treatments for conditions like Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's.

Angela McNab, the Chief Executive of the HFEA, said: "Many people initially have a disquiet about this type of research, but once people understand much more about what's involved, they're able to focus more on what the potential benefits of the science are, and they feel much more comfortable about it."

But religious groups, and other opponents say combining human and animal material breaks an absolute taboo.

Anthony Ozimic, from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said: "The hype surrounding hybrids is being promoted by those with a vested interest in the government's stem cell research fund, and yet again patients with degenerative conditions are being given false hope by the profit-hungry biotech industry."

Researchers still have to apply for licences to use the technique for specified medical projects. Two teams of British scientists have already done so.

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