By Hilary White

LONDON, July 3, 2008 ( – Doubtless in anticipation of the apparently imminent passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, the UK’s embryo research authority has granted a license to scientists to begin work to create human/pig cloned hybrid embryos. The Labour government’s proposed bill, however, would, if passed into law, do away with the necessity of researchers even asking for individual licenses.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) granted the license to the Clinical Sciences Research Institute, University of Warwick, who want to make the embryos in order to produce embryonic stem cells.

Professor Justin St. John told the Daily Telegraph: “We will take skin cells from patients who have a mutation for certain kinds of heart disease…and put them into pig eggs after their chromosomes have been removed. We will then make embryos so that we can attempt to derive embryonic stem cells which will allow us to study some of the molecular mechanisms associated with these heart diseases.”

The researchers say they hope to use the cells to learn the origins and workings of certain types of heart disease and provide models for drug testing. “We will effectively be creating and studying these diseases in a dish,” Professor St. John said.
  The initial stages of the research will be focused on learning to create human/animal hybrid clones more efficiently.

The Christian Legal Centre responded to the announcement with a warning that this was only a “foretaste of things to come.” Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, also argued that the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act does not give the HFEA the power to grant such licences.

“The HFEA has not met the 1990 Act’s stringent standards for granting licences, in as much as these licences are neither ‘necessary’ nor ‘desirable’,” said Mrs. Williams.

“No significant advances have been made in embryonic stem cell research, while great advances in disease treatment have been seen in research on adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood cells,” she said.

“When other viable alternatives to such controversial research already exist, such as human induced pluripotent stem cells, then it cannot be claimed that such new research is either necessary or desirable.”

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) have called on supporters to contact their MPs to defeat the HFE bill, currently moving into its final stages in Parliament.
  Mrs. Williams added, “When we are talking about making human pig clones, we should lament our dulling of conscience as a society which permits such embryos to exist. This underscores the deplorable state of bioethics in which the UK now finds itself.”

  To find out who your UK MP is:

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