April 21, 2024


 British scientists have applied to create human-animal hybrids in an effort to clarify a gap in existing legislation. Two teams of researchers say that they want to use rabbit, cow and goat eggs to create hybrid embryos, which would be destroyed before reaching 14 days. This appears to be technically possible, as Chinese scientists have already harvested stem cells from such creations.

Under existing legislation, it is illegal to mix human and animal eggs and sperm. (There is already one major exception in IVF clinics, when the quality of human sperm is tested by using it to fertilise hamster eggs.) But it is unclear whether hybrids fall under the remit of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority as these embryos will originate from cloning, not from fertilisation.

The scientists argue that they need animal eggs to practice cloning techniques. Dr Stephen Minger, of King’s College, London, told the Telegraph: " "We are concerned that the current state of the technology means that hundreds of eggs from young women will be required to generate a single human embryonic stem cell line. Therefore we consider it more appropriate to use non-human eggs from livestock as a surrogate to generate these disease-specific cell lines until the efficiency of this procedure is improved."

Many people find the prospect of mixing animal eggs and human chromosomes repugnant. Josephine Quintavalle, the director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: "This is abhorrent. It sounds like the craziest kind of science imaginable." However, most observers expect that the HFEA will approve the procedure.