In a letter published today in Science, leading researchers argue against the National Institute of Health’s recent moratorium on funding for scientists implanting human stem cells into non-human embryos (see this link). The scientists are correct, the NIH is wrong, and funding should be reinstated for this research as soon as possible.
Chimeric embryos (mixed animal-human) have been a mainstay of critical scientific research for decades. Without it, we would not have had many significant innovations in treating AIDS and other diseases and we are unlikely to realize our potential in generating new organs for implantation and research and other areas. It’s not as if we are facing a Planet of the Apes situation. In many situations, chimeric embryos must be destroyed before two weeks of growth. There are also significant existing guidelines for this work. In fact, I am not aware of any abuses in the United States of chimeric embryo research.
While I do understand the interest of the NIH in avoiding an uninformed, hysterical, popular response to sensationalized chimeric embryo stories that could foster hysteria and invite a backlash, a more sensible approach would be for the US to establish a thoughtful oversight body based on the UK’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority.