The British government signaled that scientists will be allowed to create part-human, part-animal embryos for research into potentially life-saving medical treatments.
Caroline Flint, the health minister, is considering removing a ban on such work from a draft bill that will form the basis for new laws on fertility treatment and embryo research. Two teams of British researchers have applied for permission to create "cybrid" embryos that would be around 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent rabbit, cow, pig, sheep or goat to produce embryonic stem cells – the body's building blocks that grow into all other types of cells.
They want to use the stem cells to understand and provide new treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cystic fibrosis, motor neurone disease and Huntington's. A draft bill to replace the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 is currently being drawn up. It is expected to be ready in May and is due to be included in the Queen's speech in November.