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Catholic ethicist rejects use of hybrid embryos

Jesuit ethicist and member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee, Fr Bill Uren, has rejected an Australian reproductive biologist's proposal to use hybrid rabbit-human "embryos" to provide stem cells that "could unlock incurable diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis".

Alan Trounson, noted for his controversial views on advances in IVF technologies, yesterday backed a recent Chinese move to create an embryo-like structure by injecting a human cell into a rabbit egg.

He told a Melbourne conference on reproductive technology that the resulting "embryo", with human DNA, could not develop to full term to create a person, but it could create stem cells for use in finding treatments for presently incurable diseases.

Professor Trounson, an expert in stem-cell sciences at Monash University, predicted that these interspecies, embryo-like bodies would be in use in other research centres around the world - if not in Australia - within the next two to four years.

"It overcomes the need for large numbers of human eggs for therapeutic cloning," Professor Trounson said.

But The Australian today quotes Fr Uren denouncement of the proposal: "I don't believe in embryonic therapy at all, but I'm even less accepting of creating hybrid embryos - even in the interests of seeking remedies for a range of diseases,"

Professor Trounson, who was instrumental in developing Australia's first IVF program with Professor Wood in the 1980s, was outlining international developments in reproductive technology - most of which have been accompanied by controversy.

Professor backs use of hybrid embryos (The Australian 28/10/04)

Australian Health Ethics Committee
Vatican renews push for U.N. convention that would ban all cloning (Catholic News Service 26/10/04)

28 Oct 2004