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Public consulted on embryo work

26th April 2007

The public will be consulted on whether scientists should be permitted to create human-animal hybrid embryos.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA) will reveal its final recommendations later this year. Some MPs have said the research should be made illegal following critical public opinion.

King's College London and the University of Newcastle have made applications to the HFEA to create embryos that would be 99.9% human and 0.1% animal. These applications have been suspended.

The Science and Technology Committee described a complete ban as "unnecessarily prohibitive."

The HFEA have released a consultation paper detailing potential embryo research, such as the production of stem cell lines from hybrid embryos created from animal eggs. The resulting embryos would have their development halted after 14 days.

Shirley Harrison, head of HFEA, said: "The possibility of creating human embryos that contain animal DNA clearly raises key ethical and social questions that we need to take into consideration before deciding whether or not we can permit this type of research."

While some scientists have welcomed the public consultation, others have questioned why the HEFA is to conduct the consultation. Josephine Quintavalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: "we need to hear much more about the science and from the scientists who are opposed to it."

In June, a public meeting will be held in London where fertility patients, scientists and the public will discuss their concerns. An online questionnaire will be available and the views of 2,000 people collected in an opinion poll.

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