11th January 2007 Members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority discussed yesterday (Wednesday) the broad principles for handling any research proposals into hybrid and chimera research. The HFEA has received two applications from scientific teams to carry out research using human cells and animal eggs to produce stem cells. Angela McNab, … 11th January 2007
Members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority discussed yesterday (Wednesday) the broad principles for handling any research proposals into hybrid and chimera research. The HFEA has received two applications from scientific teams to carry out research using human cells and animal eggs to produce stem cells.
Angela McNab, Chief Executive of the HFEA, said:
“The issues around hybrid and chimera research are unique and different from mainstream human embryo research. They have proved challenging but as the independent regulator we have a duty to judge this work under the current law.
“This has proved complex and challenging as the law in this area is far from explicit and this area of research would be a significant step change in UK science.
“After careful consideration the Authority ruled that, under current legislation, these sorts of research would potentially fall with the remit of the HFEA to regulate and licence and would not be prohibited by the legislation.
“After weighing up the scientific, legal and ethical issues presented to Wednesday’s meeting, the Authority decided that there needs to be a full and proper public debate and consultation as to whether, in principle, licences for these sorts of research could be granted.
“From the evidence considered so far this issue is far from black and white. There is not clear agreement within the scientific community about the need for and benefits of this science. The Authority felt that it is important that we go through the issues and the science thoroughly and test the claims about the benefits of this research.
“In the light of this, the Authority felt it would be wrong to make an immediate judgement on these complex and controversial matters before we have built up a proper body of evidence. We know there has been limited consultation in this area as part of the Government’s future plans for legislation in the White Paper. But it has only been discussed as a small part of the overall reforms planned for the regulatory system for fertility treatment and embryo research.
“When the consultation has been completed in the Autumn, we will then be in a position to consider individual applications.
“We need to work closely with the scientific community, the various interest groups and the public to develop a proper understanding of the different types of science that hybrid and chimera research would involve. We can then decide the appropriate approach to take in each case.”