Scientists should not be prevented from creating human-animal chimeras to produce human eggs for research, according to Dr César Palacios-González, Centre of Medical Law and Ethics in The Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s.
Writing in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online today he examines four of the ethical arguments used against the creation of these chimeras to produce human eggs for research and finds that none of these arguments are ethically strong enough for it to be immoral to use this technique.
‘Given that there are no good ethical arguments for prohibiting the creation of chimeras intended for human egg production, scientists should start actively looking into this possibility.’ comments Dr Palacios-Gonzalez
Different strategies have been proposed for increasing the supply of human eggs for research purposes, compensating women for egg donation and posthumous egg donations, among other methods.
The four ethical arguments examined are:
- human dignity would be violated;
- the value of human gametes would be debased and human gametes would be seen as only possessing instrumental value;
- there would be the possibility of human pregnancies arising from the gametes of the human-chimeras
- the chimeric animal’s welfare would suffer disproportionate to the benefits.
One of the main counterarguments is that currently there is a shortage of human eggs for research and using these chimeras would enable valuable research into reproduction.
‘Human eggs for fertility and stem cell research are in short supply and at present many experiments requiring their use cannot be carried out, so we cannot fully utilise the potential benefits. The idea that growing human gametes in animals appears unethical is inhibiting scientists from even considering using this technique, which would allow vital research into reproduction and other areas. Scientists should accept that there is nothing particularly morally problematic with creating these chimeras and should start actively looking into this direction. ’ concluded Dr Palacios-Gonzalez.
The full article is available online
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Notes for editors
- For more information check out the ‘King’s in Brief’ pages online.
- An accompanying editorial which suggests that with careful management, the challenges that make human-animal chimera research ethically problematic could be overcome and conclude that it would be timely for regulators and governments to think carefully through arguments against and in favour of the creation of chimeras for human egg production for research so that we can advance reproductive medicine” is also available online
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- Reproductive BioMedicine Online is an international journal dedicated to biomedical research on human conception and the welfare of the human embryo. It is published by a group of scientists and clinicians working in these fields of study, in collaboration with Elsevier.
King’s College London