Q&A: Hybrid embryos

Why are human-animal embryos in the news?
UK scientists have won approval to create human-animal embryos.
Why create human-animal embryos?
Scientists developing these embryos say they will provide a source of stem cells - immature cells that can develop into many different types of tissue.
Who is trying to create them?
A team led by Professor Stephen-Minger, director of the stem cell biology laboratory at King's College London, has been offered a licence by the HFEA to use human-bovine embryos to study degenerative neurological diseases.

Dr Lyle Armstrong, of the Northeast England Stem Cell Institute, has been offered a licence to use cow eggs to research replacement tissues for treating conditions such as diabetes and spinal paralysis.

A third team led by Professor Ian Wilmut, the Edinburgh-based creator of the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, although it has yet to apply.
What happens next?
The research teams at King's College and Newcastle have to formally accept the offer of the licences. They must also meet certain criteria.
What are the objections?
There were 300 responses to the government consultation, with 277 opposed to the research, many of them from pro-life groups opposed to the research.
What does the law say?
A 2006 white paper to overhaul the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act-1990 proposed banning hybrid work. Under existing law, hybrid embryos could not legally be implanted into a woman's womb.
What is the situation in other countries?
In 2004 researchers at the Mayo-Clinic produced pigs with hybrid pig-human blood cells. Chinese scientists were reportedly the first to successfully create human-animal embryos. In 2005 researchers at the Salk-Institute in San Diego reported they had created mice with 0.01% human cells.

Via Guardian-Unlimited

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