Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-72)|
31 JANUARY 2007
Q60 Adam Afriyie: Would your comments
apply to the mixing of DNA in the case of hybrids?
Professor Shaw: I will reserve
my comments just to the kind of experiments we want to do. I do
not feel I should go beyond that.
Dr Armstrong: I would like to
echo what Professor Shaw says. Every chromosome that would be
in the entities that we create, apart from mitochondria, is derived
from the human cell. The instruction set that cell has in order
to become an embryo, to create the structures of the embryo and
to create the inner cell mass which would give rise to stem cells,
is all derived from human cell source. To all intents and purposes,
from an information point of view, they are human cells.
Q61 Adam Afriyie: I ask these questions
in this order deliberately. Do you feel it is your responsibility
to answer these kind of controversial ethical questions? Do you
think that is your responsibility in the roles you perform?
Professor Shaw: Absolutely. Science
that hides behind the protection of saying "This is not our
role" is bad science. Science should be subject to public
scrutiny. I think scientists should be encouraged to come out
and discuss these matters. We have a set of beliefs, other people
may have a different set of beliefs, and society needs to hear
those opinions to make up its own mind. I am grateful for this
Q62 Adam Afriyie: What is the effect
of the delay imposed by the HFEA on your work and your research
at the moment?
Professor Shaw: We cannot start
it, and this is a really important area. Obviously there will
be difficulties with any scientific experiment but, until we have
a licence to begin, this whole area may, in fact, if you want
to use an inappropriate term, die an embryo. If we cannot work
in the field and do not have access to human eggs, I cannot see
how we can go forward.
Dr Armstrong: That is absolutely
right. There are many things we can do using animal nuclear transfer
but we ultimately have to answer questions of how a human genome
responds to the reprogramming process and how we can make human
cells from those embryos. Animal studies will only take us so
far because the construction of human chromosomes is very different
to that of mice. Ultimately we cannot answer all of the questions
which we would like to ask in an animal model.
Q63 Adam Afriyie: Would it be correct
to say that the HFEA's delay has stopped that line of research
completely in the United Kingdom?
Dr Armstrong: In humans, that
is true, absolutely.
Q64 Adam Afriyie: But it is proceeding
elsewhere in the world.
Professor Shaw: I hope so.
Q65 Adam Afriyie: There is a consultation
period that has been announced. Professor Smith, how will you
work with the HFEA during the consultation period? Is that clear
Professor Smith: It is completely
opaque to me.
Q66 Adam Afriyie: Does anyone else
have any views as to how they will be working with HFEA?
Professor Shaw: We have not been
Q67 Chairman: Can I briefly ask you,
Professor Shaw, about the stem cell bank? I presume, if your research
goes ahead, you will produce stem cell lines from the cybrids.
They would be deposited, I presume, within the UK stem cell bank.
Could you tell me briefly who would get access to those? You mentioned
about sharing your research across the world. Is there a reality
that, in fact, Chinese scientists, as an example, would be able
to get access to that bank and, therefore, be able to implant
those cells in a human somewhere? Is that possible?
Professor Shaw: Stem cell lines
you would not necessarily implant in a human; it is not an embryonic
Q68 Chairman: But could they grow
Professor Shaw: You would still
only have the stem cell lines and you would not necessarily have
an embryo. This is not a blastocyst. This is not something which
can immediately be used to make a human being.
Q69 Chairman: Who will be get access
to them from that stem cell bank?
Professor Shaw: It is not my particular
area but they have very strict regulations about who they send
cell lines to: you have to be a bona fide research institution;
you have to have a track record in terms of this sort of research;
and it has to be considered appropriate. Again, I think there
has to be legislation in place in those countries to be able to
Q70 Chairman: You are happy that
in the UK we have sufficient regulation.
Professor Shaw: Absolutely; this
is the way to proceed.
Dr Armstrong: That is agreed.
Q71 Dr Harris: Regardless of whether
there is debate in the scientific community about whether this
will ever work, are you aware of any disagreement in the scientific
community as to whether there is a need to do the research or
the potential benefits of the research?
Professor Shaw: I have not personally
heard any sensible dissent from that voice from any of the colleagues
I work with. I would invite debate with anybody who takes those
views, public and private.
Dr Armstrong: My experience has
been that everyone I have spoken to in the science community is
very supportive of the ideas that we would like to try out. We
have not come across any significant dissent. There are obviously
people who are more predisposed to work on adult stem cell lines
but that is simply because their particular research interests
have taken them into that field. Everyone in science, or mostly
everyone, agrees that we should be pursuing both angles of research.
We cannot restrict one because we think perhaps it will not work.
Professor Smith: I would not say
dissent but of course there are different views within the scientific
community about the relative feasibility or prioritisation of
particular types of experiments.
Q72 Dr Harris: Are those arguments
for stopping the research or are those just guestimates of whether
it will ever work?
Professor Smith: They are guestimates
of whether it will ever work.
Chairman: Professor Armstrong, Professor
Shaw and Professor Smith, thank you very much indeed for giving
evidence to us this morning. I hope it has been a reasonably pleasurable
experience for you too. Thank you very much indeed.