5 August 2016
The US National Institute of Health (NIH) has set out proposals to end its imposed ban on the introduction of stem cells into animal embryos in medical research.
In a blog published on Thursday 4 August, Carrie Wolinetz, NIH Associate Director for Science Policy outlines the agency’s plans to relax restrictions on the public funding of human / animal hybrid stem cell research, and asks for public comment on the proposed changes.
Hybrid or chimera research is the subject of intense ethical debate. In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority launched a consultation back in 2007 to consider the ethical and scientific issues. Eventually deciding that there was no ‘fundamental reason’ to block cytoplasmic hybrid research – where animal eggs are hybridised to produce human stem cell lines – the Agency did not rule on a wider decision concerning hum an / animal hybrid research. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 allows the creation of chimera embryos in vitro for research purposes, but prohibits development past 14 days, and implantation into a human or animal.
In September 2015 the NIH announced a funding moratorium, whilst it considered changes to its policy. The organisation coordinated a workshop consulting experts in the field, and concluded that there is ‘clear interest and potential in producing animal models with human tissues or organs for studying human development, and eventually organ transplantation.’
Carrie Wolinetz writes that she is ‘confident that these proposed changes will enable the NIH research community to move this promising area of science forward in a responsible manner.’
Responses to the NIH proposals must be submitted 6 September.