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Scientists triumph in battle over ban on hybrid embryos

Mark Henderson, Science Editor
From The Times
February 27, 2007

Scientists triumph in battle over ban on hybrid embryosMark Henderson, Science Editor
Plans to outlaw the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for potentially life-saving stem cell research are to be dropped after a revolt by scientists.

The proposed government ban on fusing human DNA with animal eggs, which promises insights into incurable conditions such as Alzheimer’s and motor neuron disease, will be abandoned because of concerns among senior ministers that it will damage British science.

While ministers will not endorse the research in full yet, they are no longer seeking legislation to prohibit it, The Times has learnt. The Government will instead provide the fertility watchdog with funds for a public debate on the subject before new laws are drafted.

Government support for an interim ban had been announced by Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, in December, in a White Paper reviewing the fertility laws. It provoked outrage in the scientific community, with researchers describing the proposal as “an affront to patients” that would jeopardise Britain’s position as a world leader in stem cell science.

Last month 45 scientists, ethicists and politicians, including three Nobel prizewinners, wrote to The Times to support the hybrid embryo work. It has been backed by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s two biggest funders of medical science, and by the Human Genetics Commission, which advises ministers on genetic matters.

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