British Scientists Seeking Permission for Human-Animal Cloning Attempts

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 26, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Scientists Seeking Permission for Human-Animal Cloning Attempts Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 26
, 2007

London, England ( — Three teams of British scientists have submitted applications for permission form the British government to engage in human-animal cloning attempts. They hope to engage in the grisly research in order to reduce the number of eggs needed from women for human cloning and to research diseases.

"Getting eggs from women is the bottleneck to cloning," Michigan State University researcher told the Associated Press. "An alternative would be welcomed."

All three of the teams hope to get around the problem by fusing DNA from patients with diseases with cow eggs that have had their genetic material removed. The hope the human DNA will trick the cow eggs into thinking they’re pregnant and beginning development.

After growing the hybrid for five days, scientists will destroy the embryos and extract the stem cells for research. The cells would be grown in labs and scientists would try to determine when diseases begin and how to stop them.
"You can model Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease in a dish," Stephen Minger, director of the Stem Cell Laboratory at King’s College in London, told AP.

The applications from Minger’s team and others are expected to be reviewed by the European nation’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority later this year.

However, the hybrid cloning experiments have their detractors, including pro-life advocates and people in the bioethics community.

Georgetown University philosophy professor Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, told AP the experiments "treat a human being at his or her earliest stages as a mere tool."

"The destruction of such an organism does not change the moral wrongness of the initial action," said Gomez-Lobo, who called the research "a violation of human dignity."

And Calum MacKellar, from the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, also has grave concerns.

"In this kind of procedure, you are mixing at a very intimate level animal eggs and human chromosomes, and you may begin to undermine the whole distinction between humans and animals," he said.

Last June, Yale University came under heavy criticism for mixing human and animal cells in bizarre research.

Yale University scientists, funded by the United States government, are inserting millions of human brain cells into the heads of monkeys afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. They said the experiments will help them better understand the disease and possible provide a cure.

Yale researcher Gene Redmond and his team are conducting the work on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts because the island, and its neighbor Nevis, have a large population of feral African monkeys.

Redmond told AP he hopes the research will show that supplying the brain chemical dopamine to the monkeys will cure the disease.

But researchers and bioethicists are still concerned.

Stanford University bioethicist Christopher Scott said "the stuff that raises the most ethical concerns" is the research like Redmond’s.

Osagie Obasogie of the Oakland-based Center for Genetics and Society told AP, "The technology is advancing quicker than the regulations."

In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences issued guidelines asking institutions conducting such human-animal experiments to create formal, standing committees to evaluate any ethics concerns.
But Obasogie says the recommendation has no teeth and he worries committees would simply rubber stamp the experiments.

"You don’t want a monkey with 95 percent of its brain cells being human," he told the Associated Press, "and to ensure that takes more than a recommendation."