A committee of MPs affirmed yesterday,that to ban hybrid embryos are unacceptable and potentially harmful for UK Science and Technology.
The uncompromising conclusion of the Science and Technology Select Committee will ratchet up pressure on government ministers to back down over their proposals, when the draft Tissue and Embryos Bill is published next month.
The report was immediately welcomed by the UK’s leading stem cell scientists, including Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the Sheep and director of the new Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He is part of a group considering applying for a licence to use embryonic stem cells to help patients suffering from motor neurone disease.
The ban was also attacked by 223 medical research charities and patient organisations who yesterday sent a letter to the Prime Minister, calling for hybrid embryo research to be allowed to continue, on behalf of “those who know too painfully the reality of illness”.
The signatories, who included Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, are all affiliated to one of two umbrella organisations, the Association of Medical Research Charities and the Genetics Interest Group.
But their plea drew an angry response from ethics groups, who support the ban, arguing that hybrid embryos are “deeply offensive”.
The controversy over hybrid embryos began after two teams of British researchers applied for permission to use animal eggs to create “cybrid” embryos that would be around 99.9% human and 0.1% rabbit, cow, pig, sheep or goat.
Yesterday, after taking evidence from a wide range of expert witnesses, the Science and Technology Committee has delivered a report which is highly critical of the government’s proposed ban.