Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Clone team want to grow human cells in rabbit eggs
January 13, 2005 Julie Wheldon - Daily Mail
British scientists want to create embryos by combining rabbit eggs with human DNA, it has emerged. They hope the controversial move will boost stem cell research into incurable diseases by giving them a plentiful supply of eggs on which to hone their skills.
The scientists claim the development is needed as current human egg shortages are likely to worsen following a recent cloning scandal in which Korean research was exposed as fake. However, ethical campaigners last night called the idea "repugnant" and "very disturbing".
A team led by Professor Ian Wilmut - the pioneer behind Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell - is currently trying to use stem cells from embryos to learn more about the triggers for motor neurone disease.
Stem cells are building blocks that can turn into any part of the body. The team plans to turn them into nerve tissue, so scientists can then study how disease develops in the laboratory. Until now Professor Wilmut, of Edinburgh University, and his team have been relying on donations of human eggs to try to harvest the stem cells. However, they cannot get enough as the procedure is not without risks to women.
They are now in discussion with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which regulates embryo research, about using rabbit eggs instead.
The plan was revealed by one of Professor Wilmut's research colleagues. Professor Chris Shaw, from King's College London, said they hoped to take a rabbit egg, remove its genetic material and replace it with human DNA.
The egg would then be stimulated to turn into an embryo, from which they could harvest stem cells. The ultimate aim is to be able to grow several motor neurone disease stem cell lines - banks from which limitless supplies can be obtained - so they can study how the condition develops.
It is not entirely clear how the research would be covered by existing laws. The embryo would have only human genetic information inside, but rabbit proteins would still be present.
And because the impact of these proteins is not yet known, it would not be considered a true clone - even though it would contain just one person's DNA and be created through standard cloning methods.
The HFEA said because the embryo would be virtually indistinguishable from a human embryo, the researchers would need to apply for a licence and prove the research is "necessary and desirable". And because it began life as an animal-human hybrid, the embryo would have to be destroyed by the time it was 14 days old and could never be implanted into a woman and allowed to grow.
Professor Shaw said there was an increased need to get eggs from an alternative source because he expects donations to plummet after the scandal in South Korea.
Professor Hwang Woo-Suk claimed he had created cloned human embryos and 11 sets of stem cells tailor-made to patients. This week an investigation concluded both pieces of research were fabricated.
Professor Shaw said: "People's emotional response to this scandal may be to decide not to engage with the research."
Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said most people would find the proposed research repugnant. "It would create something profoundly abnormal," she said. "It is so perverse and I cannot believe that such a convoluted way is necessary to perfect stem cell technology."
Similar research has been done in China, and animal cells have been used in fertility research. However this research, with its combination of cloning, stem cells, animal eggs and human DNA, would be the first of its kind in Britain.
Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy
January 25, 2005 Maryann Mott - National Geographic News
Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing
chimeras—a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.
Cynthia Cohen is a member of Canada's Stem Cell Oversight Committee, which
oversees research protocols to ensure they are in accordance with the new
She believes a ban should also be put into place in the U.S.
Arizona bans creation of human-animal hybrids
May 12, 2010 Sharon Seltzer, Care2
Arizona is back in the news for another controversial new law. Only this time the law sounds like it came right out of a science fiction movie. Effective as of July 29, 2010 it will be illegal in the state for scientists to produce or try to produce a human-animal hybrid.
Last Friday, Governor Jan Brewer signed the new law which will prohibit any resident of Arizona from "creating or attempting to create an in vitro human embryo by any means other than fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm." The statute also makes it a crime to "knowingly destroy human embryonic stem cells during research" and makes it illegal to clone a human being.
Although the law appears to be futuristic and a little over the top, researchers have begun to experiment on creating Chimeras -- "hybrid life forms that contain genetic material from both humans and animals."
A story written in Frum Forum describes three separate research projects that have attempted this:
The concept of creating a hybrid life poses a whole array of ethical questions and that is why Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, drafted the statute for Arizona. She became concerned after reading how scientists in the United Kingdom put human DNA into empty cow eggs in order to create special embryonic stem cells for the research of various diseases.
Barto explained, "It's placing some ethical boundaries around scientific research in Arizona. This law will proactively prevent such experimentation."
"We're drawing a protective line to say that human life is valuable and needs to be protected," she continued. "We need to make sure that we're not going outside of that ethical boundary."
Ironically the new law may end up protecting innocent animals from being used in Arizona laboratories for research. And it may make people take a second look at how similar animals are to humans -- in terms of feelings and intellect.
If research in the area continues, someone will have to decide what percentage of a species is human and what rights they have. It also brings up issues of ownership and slavery.
On the other hand, critics of the new law don't believe it is necessary at all because the National Academy of Sciences has set up their own guidelines on human-animal hybrid research. These guidelines only allow the DNA from humans to be fused into the embryos of animals and not vice versa. The implication is that only a small part of a human is being placed inside a whole animal.
The guidelines also forbid any successful human-animal hybrid that reaches maturity from breeding. Creating human-animal hybrids is a confusing proposition. Arizona may have made a smart decision to pass a law that sidesteps these issues.