[JURIST] UK legislators Monday voted 336-176 against a proposed ban [Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill materials] on the use of human-animal hybrid embryo stem cells [JURIST news archive] in scientific and medical research. The decision was highly controversial, with many ban proponents arguing that it was necessary to prevent potential attempts at human genetic engineering. In a Sunday editorial [text] in the Observer, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown advocated against the ban, saying that hybrid embryos may help stem cell research find cures for degenerative diseases:
It was in 1998 that James Thomson, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin, successfully removed stem cells from spare embryos at fertility clinics.The Guardian has more.
His discovery established the world's first human embryonic stem cell line and launched stem cell research into the scientific mainstream.
A decade on from that moment of discovery, Parliament will make decisions this week that will affect not only the pace of scientific advance, but also the rights of different individuals to benefit from scientific advances already made in the complex field of embryology.
Should scientists be given the legal framework they say they need to pursue new cures and treatments through stem cell research or will we turn our back on these potential advances?
Should children who face death or critical illness find new hope in scientific advances that would allow their new brother or sister to be not just a blessing to their family, but also a saviour sibling to them? And should people be able to approach IVF clinics without fear of discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation?
My answer to all those questions is an unequivocal yes.
Hybrid embryos are created by inserting human DNA into an animal egg. A sudden electrical shock then causes the egg to develop into an early stage embryo, from which stem cells can be harvested.