HFEA: Human-animal embryos in research

23 July 2007

In July 2007, the Royal Society responded to scientific questions posed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in relation to the HFEA consultation on the ethical and social implications of creating human-animal embryos in research. This builds on our previous responses to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into the appropriateness of Government proposals for the regulation of hybrid and chimera embryos (January 2007) and to the Joint Committee on the Draft human tissue and embryos Bill. Key points raised included:

  • We are supportive of the creation of cytoplasmic hybrid embryos by cell nuclear replacement (CNR) into animal eggs for research purposes.  This technique will provide a valuable experimental tool and may ultimately lead to therapeutic benefits.
  • There is a scientific case for the creation of other human-animal embryos for research purposes.
  • More research is essential to address scientific issues regarding chimaera and hybrid embryos and/or stem cells derived from them.
  • Placing embryos created through CNR into a woman is prohibited under the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001.  Whether embryos created through CNR would have the normal potential to develop if replaced into a woman is unknown but unlikely and impossible to determine without further research.