London: Researchers at Newcastle University have announced the successful creation of part-human, part-animal hybrid embryos for the first time in the UK.
The novel discovery is expected to create a furore, as the breakthrough comes just a month before MPs are to debate the future of such research, which has been condemned by the Catholic Church as "monstrous”
However, Dr Lyle Armstrong and colleagues claim it to be a part of basic research on cloning and not an attempt to create a hybrid animal, which is illegal.
The hybrids were created by injecting DNA derived from human embryo cells into eggs taken from cows ovaries which have had DNA responsible for their characteristics removed, leaving only cow DNA used to power the cells.
The hybrids would help in vital scientific understanding of debilitating disease like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, the researchers claim.
As per the law the hybrids have to be destroyed within 14 days of its creation.
"We are dealing with a clump of cells which would never go on to develop beyond 14 days," the Telegraph quoted Professor John Burn, a spokesman for Newcastle University, as saying.
He also added that there is no intention to put the hybrids into a surrogate mother.
Nor are the hybrids "yet progressing to the state where they are capable of creating stem cells,” he said.
“The purpose of the experiments is to study the way the use of genes alters early in development, so the primary aim of research is basic understanding, not generating stem cells,” said Prof Burn.
Scientists want to extract stem cells from the hybrids, in order to have deeper insights into a range of diseases from diabetes to stroke an develop new therapies, though they stress the cells themselves would not be used.
The move to create hybrid embryos with cow eggs was driven by a shortage of human eggs.