Well, not really—but the UK government will tolerate and support research into human-animal hybrids. No one is interested in raising a half-pig/half-man creature to adulthood, but instead this work is all about understanding basic mechanisms of development and human disease.
Scientists want to create the hybrid embryos to study the subtle molecular glitches that give rise to intractable diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cystic fibrosis. The researchers would take a cell from a patient and insert it into a hollowed out animal egg to make an embryo, which would be 99.9% human and 0.1% animal. Embryonic stem cells extracted from the week-old embryo would then be grown into nerves and other tissues, giving scientists unprecedented insight into how the disease develops in the body. Under existing laws, the embryos must be destroyed no later than 14 days after being created and cannot be implanted.
(I don’t care for how they phrased it: these will be a collection of animal-derived cells that contain human nuclear DNA. They will not be human.)
This is precisely the kind of useful biomedical research our American president called one of the “most egregious abuses of medical research” in his state of the union speech last year. Essentially, the only people who oppose it are confused wackos with delusions about the ‘sanctity’ of human life who think a few cells in a dish should have more rights and privileges than an adult woman—a substantial chunk of the Republican base.
We see once again where the so-far eminently successful American scientific machine is stymied by the religious twits who have looked at the possibilities of 21st century biology, and turned away, allowing other countries the opportunity to pass us by.
I should have included a link to this other article, in which government ministers declare that they will no longer oppose the research.