Feeds

Researchers propose human-cow hybrid

Grow your own hamburgers?

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.