Britain’s Parliament is tackling the controversial subject of human-animal embryo research. Critics call it ‘Frankenstein Science’, saying it is obscene to combine human and animal cells. Supporters say scientists need the hybrid techniques to produce stem-cells for research because of a shortage of human eggs.
Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris said: “I think it is important that Parliament should vote along ethical grounds, and it is entirely ethical to vote for the carefully regulated use of embryos, whether they be fully human or a combination of human and animal material up to 14 days development, when still microscopic.”
Stem cells could be used in the treatment of spinal injuries or diseases like Parkinson’s. But even among scientists, there is scepticism about the rate of progress. Stem-cell expert Dr Carlos Lima said: “If we look at what we have, objectively, we have nothing. We do not have one single disease or condition where embryonic stem cells prove to be helpful.”
One supporter, the UK Prime Minister, is allowing his MPs a free vote. He says Britain should not turn its back on vital scientific advances, though he respects those who disagree with some of the bill on religious grounds. MPs are also to debate allowing screening for so-called ‘saviour siblings’ to help an existing brother or sister suffering a serious disease.