Japanese Govt OK's human-animal embryo cloning
The Daily Yomiuri
A government council said Wednesday it had permitted cloning technology to produce combined human-animal embryos that someday could be used to produce human organs for transplants.
The government's Council for Science and Technology Policy, chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, disclosed guidelines on studies of cloned human and other embryos under a law to regulate cloning technologies in its report to Education, Science and Technology Minister Atsuko Toyama.
The guidelines allow the implanting of human cells into fertilized animal eggs for medical purposes only, and will go into force Dec. 5. They prohibit human cloning, but lift the freeze on other types of cloning research.
The release of the guidelines has increased expectations among medical researchers that studies of the aggregate embryos could lead to rejection-free organ transplants.
The hope is that human organs could be grown in other species and later transplanted into humans.
However, some said the decision opens the door to the risk of creating mixed-species organs, or possibly even creatures.
When a U.S. bioventure firm announced Nov. 25 that it had succeeded in cloning a human embryo, U.S. President George W. Bush voiced his opposition the very next day.
The Education, Science and Technology Ministry decided in June to allow the cloning of three kinds of embryos that are useful in the study of hard-to-cure diseases.
While allowing the cloning of aggregate embryos, the Wednesday announcement bars all other embryo cloning, citing insufficient debate about the ramifications of such cloning.
Though the guidelines prohibit placing the aggregate embryos into human or animal wombs, they permit the use of human embryo stem cells, subject to strict screening.
Koizumi said, " I hope any research is conducted in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the report, and that researchers fully understand the seriousness of the ethical issues involved--issues that may affect all humans. "