Human, animal DNA mixing needs oversight
The fast-moving field of mixing animal and human DNA may need new ethical or regulatory boundaries for some experiments, a British panel says.
Most experiments don't need stricter regulation, said Martin Bobrow, chair of the group that wrote the report. "But there are a small number of future experiments, which could approach social and ethically sensitive areas, which should have an extra layer of scrutiny," he told reporters in London.
Those sensitive areas include:
- Those where human brain cells might change animal brains.
- Those that could lead to the fertilization of human eggs in animals.
- Any modifications of animals that might create attributes considered uniquely human, like facial features, skin or speech.
To prepare the report, a panel considered evidence for experts in academia, government, industry, animal welfare groups and professional bodies. The authors also commissioned a public opinion poll about the animal and human research.
Some current examples of experiments involving the mixing of human and animal cells include:
- Mice implanted with sections of human tumour for cancer research to study how cancers develop and spread, and to test new drugs and therapies.
- Introducing human stem cells into rats to study the human brain's potential for repairing damage caused by stroke.
- Goats which have a human gene incorporated in their genome to produce a human protein that is used to treat blood clotting disorders.
Experts and members of the public disagreed about where to draw the line on such experiments.
Human-animal hybrids are outlawed in Canada under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.
With files from The Associated Press