Examination of Witnesses (Questions 73-79)|
31 JANUARY 2007
Q73 Chairman: We welcome our second panel
this morning and apologise profusely for the slightly late start.
We were late starting on the previous session so my apologies.
We welcome Ms Shirley Harrison, the new chair of HFEA, and you
are very welcome to the Committee; Angela McNab, the chief executive
of HFEA; and Professor Neva Haites, an executive member of HFEA.
Professor Haites: I am just a
Q74 Chairman: We had some difficulty,
as a Committee, trying to understand, or get a clear definition,
what we are talking about in terms of the research which Professor
Armstrong and Professor Shaw were applying for through their research
programmes about which there is some concern. We had definitions
of hybrids and chimeras which are the basis of the Government's
own work and the basis of your own piece of research and public
consultation. We have then had descriptions which have ranged
from interspecies embryos to cybrids, to pseudo-hybrids. What
would be your clear definition of what we are talking about when
we are putting together material from animals and humans in this
Ms Harrison: One of the things
we would like in the new Act is for there to be absolutely clear
definitions. As you say, there is a whole spectrum of what we
are talking about.
Q75 Chairman: What is yours?
Ms Harrison: I will pass to Neva
to give an explanation of what she feels the spectrum is.
Professor Haites: I think you
very well described there the spectrum. As I presume you have
been discussing with the scientists here, we range already from
transgenic constructs, where we have a small piece of a different
animal's DNA within another species cell to create early embryos,
right up to the potential of having the hybrids and the chimeras
where you have virtually the whole of a human genome placed within
the egg of another species and where you have a predominance of
the other species mitochondria, in your hybrid case, and, in your
chimera case, where there is the potential to have whole cells
of two different species in the one potential embryo.
Q76 Chairman: There are two areas
of research which are coming from Newcastle and Kings which have
created a question mark as far as HFEA is concerned. What would
be the strategic definition which you feel we, as a Committee,
should be using and perhaps should be recommending to government?
Professor Haites: Unfortunately
I have not seen either of those applications because, as you know,
we have put those on ice for the moment to delay actually reading
them and making a decision of any description. I am afraid I am
not in any way cognisant with those applications.
Q77 Dr Turner: Can I clarify an answer
you just gave, Professor Haites? I understood from what you were
saying that somatic cell transfer you were describing as a hybrid
whereas no scientist would regard a hybrid as being a combination
of two sets of DNA; in fact, the somatic cell transfer is simply
the implantation of a complete set of one individual's DNA. We
have already discussed the fact that there seems to be some confusion
in terminology and there seems to be some confusion in your answer.
Can you clarify that?
Professor Haites: I am sorry if
that is the case. What I was trying to refer to was the nuclear
DNA, be it from another species or another person, being transferred
into the enucleated egg that still contains the mitochondrial
DNA of that other species or other human.
Q78 Dr Turner: You are calling that
Professor Haites: I am calling
that the start of a potential hybrid embryo.
Dr Turner: There is clear disagreement
Q79 Adam Afriyie: The evidence we
have had so far, just to restate it now, is that some of these
hybrids or chimera would be 99.9% human DNA, in which case the
entity would fall under a different set of legislation I imagine.
Ms Harrison: That is one of the
issues we are trying to establish. Part of the consultation we
are trying to establish is does what is being proposed fall within
our remit. Clearly there are legal issues as well as scientific