Animal-human hybrids: It makes sense to say no

A group of UK scientists held a press conference in London this week, expressing rage that their licence applications, asking to be allowed to clone embryos combining animal eggs with human tissue, were unlikely to be granted.

Readers of The Times, London, would be under the impression that no one but religious groups and opponents of embryo research are opposed to this cross species cloning.

This is definitely not the case and many countries have already banned this research, including France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and most recently Australia. Concerns address ethical and safety issues of great complexity and all these countries have come down firmly against animal-human hybrids.

For your interest we are collecting comments by international scientists, seriously concerned with responsible science, and who do not endorse the animal-human route as a way to investigate or cure human disease. We quote some of these and would like to point out that the authors are neither pro-life nor religious.

It is lamentable that a journal as prestigious as The Times has presented such a polarised position to its readers, and ignored the reality of the debate in question. The false hopes extended to patient advocacy groups are a tragic outcome of such inadequate journalism.

Stuart Newman, Professor of Cell Biology, New York Medical College, Founding Member of the Council for Responsible Genetics:

‘I think this is a poorly motivated experiment.’

‘Growth and development of the human-cow hybrid clone would say very little about the potential of a human-only clone to develop in the same fashion.’

Dr William James Peacock, Australian Chief Scientist, Chairman of National Science Forum, Molecular biologist, and acknowledged cloning supporter:

‘Stem cell research could proceed without using animal eggs as incubators.’

‘The use of animal eggs is not necessary.’

In December 2006 the Australian Senate voted without dissent to maintain a prohibition on human-animal hybrids.

Human Genetics Alert:
‘The research in question is unnecessary and unlikely to provide useful information.’

‘The use of animal eggs to produce stem cells seems designed to produce as many gene expression artefacts as possible.’

‘Any conclusions regarding the differentiation of stem cells would be highly suspect, and such cells could not be used in treatment since their properties are unknown.’

‘There is also the possibility of contamination by animal viruses.

Royal Society:
‘There is at present insufficient scientific justification for creating human-animal hybrid embryos.’

Professor Sir John Gurdon, Cambridge University
Uses similar technology to investigate how eggs appear to be capable of converting adult cells into stem cells that can potentially grow into any tissue in the body. His experiments have focussed on injecting human DNA into frog eggs:

‘Scientifically, I’m not persuaded it will work. If you put cells from one species into the egg of another, the egg may divide, but you could get a lot of genetic abnormality that won’t lead to good quality stem cells.’

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