Towards the creation of “man-animal” hybrid embryos?


British authorisation

 

In May 2007, British government authorised the creation of “man-animal” hybrid embryos (see Gènéthique No 89, May 2007). The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has just accepted that some research laboratories produce these embryos, removing this way the barrier which separates human species from all other species, for therapeutic progress...

 

Reviewing French law?

 

On 11th September, Valérie Pécresse, French Minister for Research, announced that she would like “that from now, the Agency of Biomedicine is in charge of the ethical issues the British decision creates" to authorise the creation of a man-animal embryo. “These questions do not emerge today in our country within their current legal framework, but could appear within the framework of reviewing law of bioethics planed in 2009”.

 

In fact, the bioethics law of 2004 states as a principle that “research on embryo is prohibited”. By derogation, “a research can only be conducted on embryos conceived in vitro within the framework of a medically assisted reproduction which are not anymore subject to parental project. It can only be performed with the prior written consent of the couple they come from” (CSP, art. L.2151-5). Within this framework, today more than 30,000 embryos, with no “parental project”, are available in French laboratories and thus “could”, according to law, be used for research subject to parental authorisation1.

In addition, “the fact to proceed to in vitro conception or to the constitution by human embryo cloning for research purposes is punished by seven years in jail and a 100,000 euro fine” (CSP art. L.2163-4).

 

The objective of this new technique of creation of hybrid embryos would be to obtain an embryo, according to cloning principle, by injecting the nucleus of a stem cell in an oocyte taken from an animal, for example, a cow, in order to have stem cells for research. Mgr Elio Sgreccia, president of the pontifical Academy for Life, denounced “a monstrous act toward human dignity” and asks the scientific community to mobilise.

 

1. Annual report 2006 of the Agency of Biomedicine.