A year has passed since the controversial HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) Bill was passed, allowing research involving human animal hybrid embryos. The last of the three licensed teams to carry out this research has lost out on it’s funding and been forced to end their projects.
The 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was introduced to amend and update the 1990 act. The main changes involve the regulation of all embryos outside the body, the regulation of human-animal hybrids allowed for research, banning of sex selection of embryos except for medical reasons, and the recognition of same sex partners as legal parents.
The main groups of scientists involved in the hybrid research were based at Newcastle University and Kings College London. The process involves injecting human DNA into cows’ eggs. The formation of these hybrid embryos to obtain stem cells is believed to be important in the research of treatments for several degenerative diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, two fairly common neurodegenerative diseases. However, there was much opposition from those opposing stem cell research saying that the formation of these chimeric cells is unethical and dangerous practice.
Of the three scientists licensed to carry out this hybrid research in the UK, all have now been refused funding for their research projects. The projects have been refused by publicly funded research councils, many of whom were in the forefront of lobbying for the passing of the bill last year. The research councils have denied allegations that the project funding was refused on moral grounds. Heads of the research councils were quick to refute these accusations saying that their set up with a peer-review system of assessing projects rules out any chance of personal moral influence. The number of applications for funding will always outweigh the amount of money available and so there will always be some projects which are refused.
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