UK Govt. allows creation of hybrid embryos, human implantation still forbidden

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Superseding its own decision, the UK government has removed the ban on the creation of human-animal embryos. Scientists are now allowed to experiment on the hybrid embryos and use the results to develop treatments for incurable diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Scientists will be allowed to create three different types of hybrid embryos and they will be allowed to grow these embryos in a lab for a period no more than two weeks. The major setback for the scientists is that they are still not allowed to implant them in humans.

The three allowed hybrid embryos include:

• Chimeric Embryo:

This hybrid embryo is made by injecting cells from an animal into a human embryo.

• Human Transgenic Embryo:

This embryo is created by injecting animal DNA into a human embryo.

• Cytoplasmic Hybrid:

The Cytoplasmic Hybrid is created by transferring the nuclei of human cells into animal eggs. Before this transfer takes place all the genetic material have to be removed from the animal cells.

Scientists have stated that out of the three legal hybrid embryos the Cytoplasmic Hybrid is the most important. This is the hybrid which is being developed in British Universities. Scientists have stated that this embryo is a great source of stem cells which can further be used to develop tissues for use in medical research.

Earlier the government had imposed a ban on the development of hybrid embryos, but now the government has reverted from its decision and has made the development legal. Now scientists will be allowed to develop ‘true hybrid’ embryos, which would involve fertilizing a human egg with animal sperm and vice versa.

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Scientists have welcomed this decision of the government and have stated that the move can help them develop cure for many incurable life-threatening diseases.

Stem cells can be used to create different types of cells and they hold promising cures to hundreds of diseases. However, these cells are in short supply and some experts want to create more cells by adding human genetic material to rabbit or cow eggs.

The Human Tissues and Embryos Bill would now allow scientists to create hybrid embryos that are 99.9% human and 0.1% animal. Moreover, scientists will also be allowed to alter human embryos by the introduction of animal DNA.

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