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British scientists want regulation for human-animal, "Frankenstein-like" experiments

British scientists are concerned human DNA experiments with animals could cause them to develop human-like features CBS

(CBS/AP) From sheep with human livers to cows whose udders yield human breast milk, scientists have created all sorts of animal-human hybrids. But now a group of British scientists is calling for a regulatory oversight committee because of the "'Frankenstein fear' that the medical research which creates 'humanized' animals is going to generate monsters," The Telegraph reported.

The UK-based Academy of Medical Sciences based their recommendation based on evidence from academics, the U.K. government, animal welfare groups, and a survey to gauge public opinion. The government-picked expert committee would decide whether certain tests that use human DNA on animals are ethically sound, and should be allowed.

Martin Bobrow, chair of the academy said tighter regulation isn't needed for most of these experiments. "But there are a small number of future experiments, which could approach social and ethically sensitive areas which should have an extra layer of scrutiny," he told reporters in London.

Experiments that might spark concern are those where human brain cells might change animal brains, where human eggs are fertilized in animals, and any modifications of animals that might create at uniquely human attributes, like facial features, skin or speech.

Dr. Christopher Shaw of the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London told Reuters, "If you come home and your parrot says 'Who's a pretty boy?' that's one thing. But if your monkey says it that's something else."

Some experts think regulating human DNA experiments in animals could impede medical advancements. Robin Lovell-Badge, head of stem cell biology and developmental genetics at Britain's Medical Research Council said injecting human brain cells into the rats' brains might lead to new stroke treatments, or that growing human skin on mice could further skin cancer research.

What do you think? Could this regulatory panel slow the pace of medical advances?

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