Hybrid Embryo Research: Scientific Breakthrough or Are We Playing God?
HUMAN-cow embryos have been created at Newcastle University in England, hailed by the scientific community, but labeled “monstrous” by opponents. A team has grown hybrid embryos after injecting human DNA into eggs taken from cows’ ovaries, which had most of their genetic material removed.
The embryos survived for three days and are intended to provide a limitless supply of stem cells to develop therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries, overcoming a worldwide shortfall in human embryos.
The resulting cytoplasmic embryos- known as admixed embryos- are more than 99% human, with a small animal component, making up around 0.1%.
How it Works:
The process involves injecting an empty cow or rabbit egg with human DNA from a skin cell. A burst of electricity is then used to trick the egg into dividing regularly, so that it becomes a very early embryo, from which stem cells can be extracted.
Some of the human-animal embryos lived for three days, and the largest grew up to 32 cells.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. It has been hypothesized by scientists that stem cells may, at some point in the future, become the basis for treating diseases such as
Human stem cells could also be used to test new drugs. For example, new medications could be tested for safety on differentiated cells generated from human pluripotent cell lines. Other kinds of cell lines are already used in this way. Cancer cell lines, for example, are used to screen potential anti-tumour drugs.
Treat diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
What does the law say?
According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in 1990, ministers felt they needed updating as science had moved on significantly; they were initially cool on the idea of creating human-animal embryos.
However, they were in pressure from the scientists, who argued a ban would hamper medical research.
In addition, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee carried out an inquiry into the proposals and concluded that the creation of Hybrid embryos was necessary for the research and that there should not be a complete ban.
Cross-party attempts to ban hybrid human animal embryos was defeated on a free vote, by 336 to 176, but are allowed to use them as research providing the cells are destroyed within 14 days. It also proposes that a hybrid embryos could not legally be implanted into a woman’s or an animal’s womb.
What is the Situation in other countries?
Many countries have banned this human-animal embryo research, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Italy.
The government says the scientific advantages of allowing the creation of hybrid embryos for research purposes could help millions of people to recover from illness or disease.
Hundreds of British scientists and medical organizations support the process and say it is necessary because of a shortage of human eggs and embryos for research.
Scientists hope working with those stem cells will lead to treatments for serious conditions like motor neuron disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, and they say using hybrids overcomes the shortage of human embryos.
“The use of animal eggs will provide a valuable resource to embryo research scientists,” argued Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo.
Opponents say this is tamping with nature and is unethical. Critics say they are repulsed by the idea and there must be no creation of an animal-human hybrid.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, a leading figure in the Catholic Church, had described the research as a “monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life.” He said the bill would allow experiments of “Frankenstein proportion.” He also added, “In these terms, in terms of embryology research, we will almost be like a rogue state.” He added, “In many ways we are like children playing with land mines, without any concept of the dangers of the technology.”
The scientist are still sceptical about the end results, this could only be a theory to these illnesses. There are many other ways go get stem cells other than this process.
What still needs answering?
Hybrid embryos will help scientists on stem cell research. These are some of the questions they are still trying to solve about stem cells:
• How many kinds of adult stem cells exist, and in which tissues do they exist?
• What are the sources of adult stem cells in the body? Are they “leftover” embryonic stem cells, or do they arise in some other way? Why do they remain in an undifferentiated state when all the cells around them have differentiated?
• Do adult stem cells normally exhibit plasticity, or do they only transdifferentiate when scientists manipulate them experimentally? What are the signals that regulate the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells that demonstrate plasticity?
• Is it possible to manipulate adult stem cells to enhance their proliferation so that sufficient tissue for transplants can be produced?
• Does a single type of stem cell exist—possibly in the bone marrow or circulating in the blood—that can generate the cells of any organ or tissue?
From my data I can conclude there is a slight correlation between the Female (-16) and male (-16). Majority of young people were in favour of the hybrid research while the majority of the older people disagreed upon it. This may be to the lack of information given to the youth or young people are generally more keep on this new discovery.