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Scientists plan to create rabbit-human hybrids

13 January 2006

Stem cell researchers are planning to create a hybrid rabbit-human embryo as an alternative to cloning human embryos. The team of scientists, including Professor Ian Wilmut who cloned Dolly the sheep, had originally planned to use human eggs to clone human embryos, working in collaboration with Professor Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University. However, after it emerged that his claims to have cloned embryonic stem cells were fake, the team reportedly decided to find an alternative. They are in discussions with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to obtain permission to use rabbit eggs. [Telegraph, 12 December]

France is to review its rules for stem cell research. At the moment, research can be carried out on 'surplus' IVF embryos with the consent of the parents and researchers must prove that their work could lead to important advances. Some scientists regard the current rules as restrictive and unclear. The new guidelines are to be announced at the International Stem Cell Forum's annual conference in Paris. [The Guardian, 12 January]

A common antibiotic given to reduce the risk of babies being born prematurely is having the opposite effect, according to a study carried out at St Thomas' Hospital in London. The study found that treatment with the antibiotic metronidazole doubled the chances of a premature birth, rather than reducing it. Professor Andrew Shennan, who led the research, said: "We were shocked. We did not expect it. This treatment is recommended by a number of organisations." It is estimated that treatment with the antibiotic may cause twenty babies to be born prematurely every week. [Telegraph, 13 December]

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out against the abortion drug, RU-486, to Italian politicians. In a meeting in advance of the elections on 9 April, the Pope said that politicians should not "introduce pharmaceuticals that in one way or another hide the grave nature of abortion." RU-486 is currently illegal in Italy. [ABC News, 12 January]

 
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