BioethicsMon Jul 25, 2011 - 4:41 pm EST
‘Frankenstein’: UK scientists warn about secret human-animal hybrid research
LONDON, July 25, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In a scenario that a panel of scientists with the Academy of Medical Sciences warned bears resemblance to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” British scientists have created more than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos in secret research conducted in British laboratories.
According to the Daily Mail, 155 “admixed” embryos, containing both human and animal genetic material, have been created over the past three years by scientists who said stem cells could be harvested from the embryos to be used in research into possible cures for a wide range of diseases.
The secret research was revealed after a committee of scientists warned of a nightmare scenario in which the creation of human-animal hybrids could go too far.
Professor Robin Lovell-Badge of the National Institute for Medical Research and co-author of a report by the committee of scientists, warned about the experiments and called for stricter oversight of this type of research. He especially zeroed in on human genetic material being implanted into animal embryos, and attempts at giving lab animals human attributes by injecting human stem cells into the brains of monkeys.
It was revealed that labs at King’s College London, Newcastle University and Warwick University were given licenses to carry out the research after the introduction of the 2008 Human Fertilisation Embryology Act that legalized the creation of human-animal hybrids, as well as ‘cybrids’, in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell, and ‘chimeras’, in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos.
However, the scientists did not call for any additional legislation regulating such controversial research, but called instead for a panel of experts to oversee it. Prof Martin Bobrow, chair of the Academy working group that produced the report, said: “The very great majority of experiments present no issues beyond the general use of animals in research and these should proceed under current regulation.
“A limited number of experiments should be permissible subject to scrutiny by the expert body we recommend; and a very limited range should not be undertaken, at least until the potential consequences are more fully understood.”
Peter Saunders, the CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors, expressed his skepticism about any such regulatory body.
“Scientists regulating scientists is worrying because scientists are generally not experts in theology, philosophy and ethics and they often have ideological or financial vested interests in their research. Moreover they do not like to have restrictions placed on their work,” observed Saunders.
In a question and answer session in Parliament led by Lord David Alton following the release of the report, it was revealed that the human-animal hybrid research has stopped due to lack of funding.
“I argued in Parliament against the creation of human-animal hybrids as a matter of principle,” Lord Alton said. “None of the scientists who appeared before us could give us any justification in terms of treatment. At every stage the justification from scientists has been: if only you allow us to do this, we will find cures for every illness known to mankind. This is emotional blackmail.”
“Ethically it can never be justifiable – it discredits us as a country. It is dabbling in the grotesque,” Lord Alton added. “Of the 80 treatments and cures which have come about from stem cells, all have come from adult stem cells, not embryonic ones. On moral and ethical grounds this fails; and on scientific and medical ones too.”
Josephine Quintavalle, of the pro-life group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Corethics), told the Daily Mail, “I am aghast that this is going on and we didn’t know anything about it. Why have they kept this a secret? If they are proud of what they are doing, why do we need to ask Parliamentary questions for this to come to light?”
“The problem with many scientists is that they want to do things because they want to experiment. That is not a good enough rationale,” Quintavalle concluded.