UK starts study on using human DNA in animals

Nov 09, 2009 By MARIA CHENG , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- British scientists begin a new study on Tuesday to consider how human DNA is used in animal experiments and to determine what the boundaries of such controversial science might be.

Though experts have been swapping human and animal DNA for years - like replacing animal genes with human genes or growing human organs in animals - scientists at the Academy of Medical Sciences want to make sure the public is aware of what is happening in laboratories before proceeding further.

"It sounds yucky, but it may be well worth doing if it's going to lead to a cure for something horrible," said Robin Lovell-Badge, a stem cell expert at Britain's National Institute for Medical Research, and a member of the group conducting the study.

At a media briefing in London, Lovell-Badge said there were two main types of experiments: altering an animal's genes by adding human DNA or replacing a specific animal sequence with its human counterpart. Several years ago, were added to a mouse to create a model of Down's syndrome for scientists to study how the disease evolves, which could lead to potential treatments.

Scientists also have tried to grow human organs in animals that could one day be transplanted back into humans - like a mouse onto whose back scientists grew a human ear. "There are good reasons for doing this, but it may upset some people," Lovell-Badge said.

Two years ago, controversy erupted in Britain after scientists announced plans to create human embryos using empty cow and rabbit eggs. Critics condemned the mixing of human and animal , though scientists said the embryos would be destroyed after 14 days and would only be used to help them learn how to create human .

Scientists said they are now trying to determine where the line should be drawn on experiments that use human material in animals. At the moment, the regulation on how much human can be put into an animal is vague.

"We are trying to work out what is reasonable," said Martin Bobrow, chairman of the group conducting the study. He and others said they recognized people might be nervous about experiments where animals were given human features or brain cells.

David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, an independent watchdog, said he was not convinced such experiments were warranted. "This is a classic example of science going too fast," he said. "If you cannot firmly say exactly what it is you're creating, you should not do it."

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Heaven scent: Finding may help restore fragrance to roses

Related Stories

Britain posed to ban hybrid embryos

Jan 05, 2007

Patients "desperate for therapy" would be denied potential treatment if Britain outlaws human-animal embryos, scientists said.

Animal eggs not suitable substitutes to produce stem cells

Feb 02, 2009

Since the cloning of Dolly the Sheep over a decade ago, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) has been considered a promising way to generate human, patient-specific stem cells for therapeutic applications. The shortage of ...

Recommended for you

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Jul 02, 2015

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

Jul 02, 2015

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

Making the biofuels process safer for microbes

Jul 02, 2015

A team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have created a process for making the work environment less toxic—literally—for the organisms that do the heavy ...

Why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

Jul 02, 2015

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative ...

The hidden treasure in RNA-seq

Jul 01, 2015

Michael Stadler and his team at the Friedrich Miescher institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) have developed a novel computational approach to analyze RNA-seq data. By comparing intronic and exonic RNA reads, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.