Feeds

Researchers propose human-cow hybrid

Grow your own hamburgers?

Application security programs and practises

In an effort to free stem-cell research from its dependence on donated human eggs, medical researchers in the UK have applied for permission to implant human DNA into cows eggs, effectively creating a human-bovine hybrid.

Researchers from Newcastle University and Kings College, London, have applied to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for a three-year licence, the BBC reports. They want to implant human DNA into bovine oocytes, or eggs, whose nuclei have been removed.

The resulting embryo, technically a hybrid of the two species, or a chimera, would then be grown for a few days, before the stem cells would be harvested and the embryo destroyed.

The idea is that researchers could refine therapeutic cloning techniques using these hybrid embryos.

Unsurprisingly, the plan has its critics, but its supporters say vital stem cell research should not be held up because of a "yuck factor".

Just how much of a yuck factor the proposals present depends on how much information you have. The statement "scientists propose human-cow hybrid" is pretty "yucky". But the suggestion that scientists should use the "shells" of cows eggs to hold human DNA for a few days, is somehow less so.

The proposal raises some serious ethical questions, nonetheless. In particular, Calum MacKellar, from the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, warns that the research could blur the human/animal divide.

He said: "In this kind of procedure, you are mixing at a very intimate level animal eggs and human chromosomes, and you may begin to undermine the whole distinction between humans and animals."

The problem is that stem cell research is still at a very early stage. Scientists say literally hundreds of human eggs, which have to be harvested from volunteers in a painful and invasive procedure, are neccessary to create a single successful stem cell line.

They argue that using animals aggs to conduct this early stage research is a rational step, and would allow the research to progress much more quickly.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics, National Institute for Medical Research, argues that researchers should learn as much as possible from "readily obtainable" animal eggs before moving on to using the much more valuable human oocytes.

Dr Stephen Minger, from King's College London, added: "We feel that the development of disease-specific human embryonic stem cell lines from individuals suffering from genetic forms of neurodegenerative disorders will stimulate both basic research and the development of new medicines to treat these horrific brain diseases."

Stem cell research has the potential, scientists say, the develop treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.