March 2, 2008
Embryos containing human and animal material have been created in Britain for the first time, a month before the House of Commons votes on new laws to regulate the research.
A team at Newcastle University announced yesterday that it had successfully generated “admixed embryos” by adding human DNA to empty cow eggs in the first experiment of its kind in Britain.
The Commons is to debate the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill next month. MPs have been promised a free vote on clauses in the legislation that would permit admixed embryos. But their creation is already allowed, subject to the granting of a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
The Newcastle group, led by Lyle Armstrong, was awarded one of the first two licences in January. The other went to a team at King’s College London, led by Professor Stephen Minger. The new Bill will formalise their legal status if it is passed by Parliament.
Admixed embryos are widely supported by scientists and patient groups as they provide an opportunity to produce powerful stem-cell models for investigating diseases such as Parkinson’s and diabetes, and for developing new drugs.
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