Use of animals and embryos containing human material

10 November 2009

The UK Academy of Medical Sciences has launched a new study to examine the use of animals containing human material (such as DNA) in scientific research. They say that consideration of this area is needed in the light of rapid scientific advances ‘to ensure that research into our understanding of diseases and their treatment can take place in the UK within a robust ethical and regulatory framework’ (see press release).

The investigation will consider transgenic animals and animal embryos containing integrated ‘human-like genetic material’, and chimeric animals and animal embryos, containing cells of human origin. For example, this might include mouse models of human diseases such as Down’s Syndrome, which are widely used for medical and pharmaceutical research; human tissues or organs being grown in animals as part of transplantation research; or the controversial hybrid human-animal embryos for stem cell research (see previous news).

The study is expected to take 12-18 months and will consider scientific, ethical, social, regulatory and safety aspects of the creation and use of non-human animals and embryos incorporating human material, including public perceptions of such research. Professor Martin Bobrow CBE, who is to lead the multi-disciplinary expert group who are undertaking the study, reportedly said: "We are trying to work out what is reasonable" (see Associated Press news).

The study is supported by the Home Office, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (see responses to study launch). The AMS says the final report will serve to ‘reinforce the UK’s lead in developing policy and legislation in challenging areas of medical science that is recognised world-wide’. More information is available from their website.

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