Memorandum submitted by Jane Majkawski (HF 01)
I am writing to you to explain the impact that certain sections of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill could have on the search for effective treatments for Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
MND is a fatal disease that can affect any adult at any time. The cause is unknown and there is no known cure. In this country alone MND affects around 5,000 people and every day five people in the UK die from this cruel disease. It is a rapidly progressive condition in the majority of cases with around half of those diagnosed dying within 14 months.
As a member of the MND Association I support medical research that has sound scientific rationale and has the potential to bring us closer to effective treatments for MND. Because of this, I support aspects of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill relating to the use of human-admixed embryos also known as human-animal hybrid embryos.
At present, there is no viable way of studying living human motor neurones in the Laboratory, which is greatly inhibiting our understanding of the disease and the search for effective treatments. Stem cells derived from human-admixed embryos would offer us a potential source of motor neurones for research. The use of an animal egg as an empty vessel for the creation of human embryos overcomes the limiting factor of the availability of donated human eggs. Less than 0.1% of the genetic material in the resulting embryo is animal, and work is being done to further reduce this figure.
Research using stem cells derived from human-admixed embryos may ultimately lead to more effective treatments. The law would not allow implantation of such an embryo in a woman or in an animal, nor would researchers wish to do this, and the embryos would be allowed to develop, as a source of stem cells, for up to 14 days.
This type of research, under strictly regulated conditions, offers considerable potential benefits to future patients and has much public support. In 2007 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) public consultation showed that 61% of the British public support the use of human-admixed embryos for medical research to understand serious diseases Like MND.
I respect and acknowledge the ethical concerns surrounding this Bill but I urge you to support any approach that could progress research into MND and other neurodegenerative conditions.