Monday, May 19, 2008

HFEB: Hamster Test


a letter from Pauline Gately

During the Second Reading debate five MPs, including Alan Johnson, implied that the so-called “hamster test” was a sufficient precedent for permitting the creation of “true” hybrid embryos (using animal egg and human sperm or vice versa) under this Bill. (There has been a deafening silence in the media on the true hybrid issue with the focus of debate being on so-called “cybrids” formed by adding a human nucleus to an animal egg from which the nucleus has been removed – such entity is then claimed to be 99.9% human).

This needs to be challenged if the legalisation of true hybrids is to be prevented on Monday. David Jones, Professor of Bioethics at St Mary’s University College, has hastily written a paper on this

The hamster test was sanctioned under the first HFE Act 1990 and is used to test human sperm. Human sperm is introduced to a hamster egg and the fertilisation process is observed but not allowed to be completed (or so Parliament was assured at the time) so that an embryo is not actually created (even were that scientifically possible with two such fundamentally different species). But the Bill’s apologists are now using this spurious precedent to defend, for example, permission under the Bill for the fertilisation of human egg with chimpanzee sperm. Scientifically, this is much more likely to result in an embryo and may be kept for up to 14 days. This is the essence of David’s paper with full referencing.

It would be good to flag up this with your MP and spread the word.

Please also take a look at this superb article in The Tablet. Professor Scolding is Burden Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at Bristol University. Worth lobbing in whole or part at any MPs that are still open to reason.

4 comments:

Henry said...

Thinking about this, I have long wondered whether politicians and civil servants are, as they say, a full bricks short of a full load. Now it could be that this hybridising business has been going on for much longer than anyone would admit, and this could be the explanation - half human, half - well, one cannot even begin to imagine what the other half would have been.

michael petek said...

Father, what precisely is the moral objection to the creation of human-animal hybrids, given that a human person can come into being only in the union of a human sperm with a human ovum, therefore the hybrid cannot itself be a human individual?

Henry said...

The cell nucleus is fully human in these so-called hybrids. But the kind of human you seem to be envisaging, say 50-50 human-hamster, would not of course be fully human, and if such a thing could be created it will be, and someone will try to grow it on a bit longer to see what it is like, and a bit longer and a bit longer, and it will eventually go a full term. Then we will have the first of a new breed of these hybrids, which will take over and run the country, or may already be doing so. That really does open the door to monster creation. It is the thin end of a dangerous wedge.

V said...

If we elected real hamsters as MPs they'd probably do a better job.