By Hilary White

  NEWCASTLE, UK, April 2, 2008 ( – The research team at Newcastle University that had previously asked permission to create cloned human/cow embryos, has announced that it has already succeeded in creating the hybrids. The Times newspaper reported today that the research has gone ahead and generated “admixed embryos” that share human and animal DNA and lived for three days in the lab. The largest grew to 32 cells. The researchers said that their goal is to create patient-specific genetically matched embryonic stem cells.

  In January this year the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority issued two licenses to allow the creation of human/animal hybrid embryos.

  While the debate continues over the impending Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill that proposes to enshrine in law all the practises allowed in the last decade by the HFEA, many have decried the government’s “one way ratchet effect” on embryo research that allows an increasingly permissive milieu to continue.

  The embryos created are being called “cytoplasmic hybrids” in which a nucleus from a somatic (body) cell from a human being is inserted into the de-nucleated ovum of an animal. The media has repeated the assertion that the resulting “cybrids” are “99.9 per cent human”.

  The hope is to create cybrids from patients and allow them to grow to the blastocyst stage, about six days, from which embryonic stem cells may be extracted and cultivated. This would create embryonic stem cells that were partially genetically matched to the patient’s genetic makeup.

  The Times reminds readers that current and impending “clone and kill” legislation prohibits the researchers from allowing the embryos to live past 14 days, a date established as significant by bioethicists but unconfirmed by human embryologists, and that no cloned embryo may be implanted and allowed to come to term. This prohibition, however, has been roundly denounced as a red herring by pro-life advocates as a means of appeasing public opinion. The practise of so-called “reproductive cloning” is not being pursued by researchers more interested in stem cell science and the manipulation of the human genome.

  Professor John Burn, a member of the Newcastle team, maintained that the process was ethical because it is “licensed work which has been carefully evaluated”. He told the BBC, “It’s a laboratory process and these embryos would never be implanted into anyone.”

  In language lifted directly from the abortion lobby’s manual, Professor Burn said, “We are dealing with a clump of cells which would never go on to develop.”

  Read related coverage:

  English Scientists Ask Permission to Create Human/Cow Clones