23 April 2008

British scientists have created a hybrid of a human and a cow

Ng.ruA human-cow hybrid that shocked the public has been created in the laboratory of the University of New Castle.

Instantly nicknamed the minotaur by journalists, he caused a very sharp reaction – first of all from the Vatican, where such manipulations with chimeras were called "Frankenstein-scale experiments".

Meanwhile, what was done in New Castle looks quite natural, quite innocent and even very well-intentioned. The researchers simply wanted to make stem cells, with which they are going to get new information about a whole list of human diseases - from diabetes to stroke, but mainly about Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

Professor John Byrne, who heads the research, states that their experiment in no way violates any ethical guidelines. The best material from which stem cells can be extracted is human embryos. British laws – with the appropriate, of course, reservations – it is not prohibited, but such material is very expensive and scarce. This means that if it can be obtained through legal channels, it will take a very long time. That is why the researchers chose a non-deficient cow.

They took an egg from a cow, removed the nucleus with all the DNA from it and put a nucleus taken from a man's skin cell into this cell envelope. It turned out that 99.9% of the future organism will be human. They waited until everything started to develop, saw through the microscope that the embryo was growing as it should, and three days later they stopped the experiment. The largest preembryon consisted of 32 cells.

According to British law, such embryos must be destroyed no later than 14 days after the beginning of their development. There was, again, three days. "All the work," says Professor Bern, "was fully licensed, the cells developed in a Petri dish, and we had no idea that the embryos would develop into a living organism or into tissue for human transplantation."

This was the first stage of the experiment, which showed that the human-wolf embryo can be grown in this way at all. At the next stage, scientists will try to bring its age to six days – only then it will be possible to get stem cells from it.

Actually, British law does not allow the creation of hybrid embryos. To circumvent this ban, scientists have received special permission for their experiments from the Agency for Human Fertility and Embryology (Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority). A bill allowing this to be done exclusively for laboratory research and in order not to slow them down has already been prepared, but will not be considered by the House of Commons for at least another month.

Its passage may be hindered by a sharp reaction of the Catholic Church. She has already called such experiments immoral. "It is hard to imagine," Cardinal Keith O'Brien said, "a legal institution that would so unequivocally attack the sanctity and dignity of human life than this bill."

Professor Alexander Zelenin, chief Researcher at the Institute of Molecular Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that the protests of the Church will lead to nothing.

"Understand," he stressed in an interview with an NG correspondent, "I am not against priests, it's just that, as experience shows, all prohibitions of this kind are meaningless, nothing can be prohibited. At one time there were a lot of protests about "children in test tubes", now these "children" are 20-25 years old, and they are no different from "normal" people – well, maybe a little more frail. And the disputes about this are all forgotten, and the procedure itself has become standard. There was also a lot of noise around human cloning, and indeed animals in general. It is possible to clone any animal. However, whether this is necessary, I am not at all sure. Why clone a person, I don't understand. This can be done, remembering that with the existing cloning technologies, out of five hundred defective ones, one normal one will appear. But, it seems to me, it is not necessary, although in some cases something can be done - for a lot of money and with a huge risk. However, I repeat, experience shows that nothing can be banned."


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