Hybrids hope “misleading”
9 September 2007
Hybrids hope “misleading” Leeds, England, 9 September 2007 - The public is being fed false hopes that the creation and destructive use of human-animal hybrid embryos will lead to cures for disease, Dr James Sherley, a leading scientist, informed the SPUC National Conference. The renowned academic, who is senior scientist in Programmes in Regenerative Biology and Cancer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, said the current debate on embryonic stem cell research is "incomplete, inaccurate and misleading." In his address to the conference at Trinity and All Saints College in Leeds, Dr Sherley stated: "The shortage of human eggs has led scientists to look to using human cells and animal eggs to create hybrid embryos, but this is a distraction. The likelihood that this will give the type of embryonic stem cells needed for such research is unlikely. The whole debate has been misrepresented." Dr Sherley's talk comes at a time when SPUC - the world's first pro-life lobbying and educational organisation, founded in 1967 - is lobbying against the government's draft Human Tissue and Embryos bill, that will permit scientists to create hybrid embryos by mixing animal and human cells. Dr Sherley said promises that the research would result in cures for diseases such as Parkinson's and Diabetes "are not worth anything", as embryonic stem cells are not capable of replacing the role of mature cells, whether from purely human or from hybrid embryos. "The public is not being told that these cells can't be used to cure defects in adult tissues, that embryonic stem cells provide only short-lived repair, that there is a problem with tumours, they also can't renew themselves as they cease to become stem cells. This is an engineering problem as these cells can't do what's needed", he said. Dr Sherley believes the alternative of adult stem cell research, which has produced far more positive results for dealing with illness and which doesn't involve the creation and destruction of human embryos, is a better option, despite difficulties such as identifying, purifying and growing adult stem cells. Dr Sherley pointed out that researchers often have to address difficulties of this sort. Referring to the extraction and use of embryo stem cells, he said: "Curiosity and [the wish for] recognition may drive scientists to do these things but they shouldn't get to do it [as] it involves hurting human beings. They also have a responsibility to do ethical research, which the public should demand." Dr Sherley was part of a prestigious line-up of speakers at the weekend's conference, including Nicole Parker, a Fertility Care Practitioner who talked of the benefits of NaPro Technology, a natural, ethical alternative to IVF. IVF involves the creation and destruction of human embryos. Speaking of the problems of infertility that are now thought to affect at least one in six couples in the UK, Mrs Parker said the medical community has developed ways of dealing with infertility that "don't treat the disease", such as IVF, which is expensive and invasive. Mrs Parker said: "NaPro Technology knows infertility is a symptom of something else. It is a much more holistic approach to look at what is the underlying cause of the infertility. Many couples come to us with 'unexpained infertility', when they are just unaware of how the woman's cycle works and don't know when in her cycle her fertility window occurs. "Most people don't understand the basics of fertility. They think all that's required are healthy sperm and eggs. Too many people believe the myth of the [unvarying] 28-day cycle. This is something we need to address. All young women should be taught the basics of their fertility", said Mrs Parker. High-resolution picture of Dr Sherley at the conference. Photographs of delegates to the conference.