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Not “human” enough to be human but not “animal” enough to be animal - the case of the HFEA, cybrids and xenotransplantation in the UK

Haddow, G   Bruce, A   Calvert, J   Harmon, SHE   Marsden, W

New Genetics and Society   29 (1) 3-17

March 2010   (Version of record first published March 2010)

Innovations in scientific and medical technologies, such as xenotransplantation and admixed embryos, invariably become the target of regulatory agencies and often demand new regulatory frameworks. In making decisions associated with these innovations, it is sometimes necessary for regulators to adopt certain positions about the status and significance of the human-animal embryo or body. In the UK, the regulatory and advisory bodies involved in the sphere of human/non-human transfer and exchange of material are: (1) the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA); (2) the (defunct) UK Xenotransplantation Interm Regulatory Authority; and (3) the Home Office's Animal Procedures Committee (APC). In this article, we critically examine the reasons for the HFEA's involvement in regulating and advising in research which uses admixed embryos, given that the HFEA's remit is the government's fertility watchdog regulating in the area of human embryos. This expansion, we argue, was partly due to pressure from pro-cybrid supporters and the need to fill an institutional void left by the decommissioning of UKXIRA. Ironically, specific institutions such as UKXIRA may have been better placed to deal with animal-human fusions.