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UK Group Issues 'Animals Containing Human Materials' Report

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Research in the UK that uses animals containing human materials, including DNA, should have a national advisory body to guide its regulation, the Academy of Medical Sciences has proposed in a new report.

The Academy of Medical Sciences' report on animals containing human material (ACHM) recommended last week that the Home Office establish the body of experts, and that it work with the Department of Health to ensure that there are no gaps, overlaps, or inconsistencies in regulating research using such animals.

The UK also should raise international awareness of ACHM research and promote international consistency in practices and standards regarding such research, and should classify such research into three tiers to determine the regulatory scrutiny they receive, the AMS report advised.

The study group, led by University of Cambridge Medical Genetics Professor Emeritus Martin Bobrow, was supported by the Department of Health, the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The study examined the scientific, social, ethical, safety, and regulatory aspects of research involving ACHM.

Animals that contain human genetic information, cells, or tissues are used to refine research methods and to develop and test new medical technologies by creating animal models that better represent human diseases and responses. They are used to determine the role of a specific bit of human DNA, to test methods of diagnosing and treating diseases, and to understand human bodily function.

Research is already being conducted that uses ACHM to study diseases that may be caused by specific genes or variants, such as research into migraines, anxiety disorders, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. And genetically altered animals can be used to make human-type proteins and substances for treating people who cannot produce enough of these materials for themselves, such as a protein involved in blood clotting that was created by genetically altered goats.

"In short, a wide range of genetically altered and chimeric ACHM are now in use," the study group found. "This work is well established, has made significant contributions in many fields, and is likely to be even more widely used in the future."

"Animals containing human materials are a vital research tool in certain areas of fundamental bioscience and it is important, as this report states, that regulation remains well ahead of scientific progress," Douglas Kell, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said in a statement.

"Animals which contain human genes, or which have been adapted to mimic characteristics of human illness, have been used in research for some time and have huge potential to speed up research into the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases which are currently very difficult to treat," added MRC Chief Executive John Savill. "This excellent report shows the importance of both public engagement and rigorous independent analysis in ensuring that scientific progress is underpinned by effective regulation and keeps pace with society's needs."

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