Last night I went to a cystic fibrosis fundraising event, organised by my sister, whose 3 year old has CF. It was a great evening, with several bands playing and a good turnout. The aim was to raise sponsorship for a friend who's running the London maration next month for the CF Trust - see www.justgiving.com/josephrichardson. (My good friend John is also running the marathon on behalf of Heart UK, so best give him a plug too: www.justgiving.com/johnlehal).
The day before, on arriving back in the UK from India, I'd picked up several messages asking me to do media on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill - too late to actually do them, but I spent Sunday morning catching up on what the Catholic church had been saying on hybrid embryos. The term 'hybrid embryos' conjures up a Frankenstein vision of mutant babies growing into monsters, but I'm sure the majority of people will back the Bill once they realise what is really involved - I've taken this from a Q and A on the BBC's site, (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6233415.stm) just to make sure I get it right:
What is a hybrid?
The experiments involves transferring nuclei containing DNA from human cells, such as skin cells, into animal eggs that have had almost all of their genetic information removed.
The resulting cytoplasmic embryos are more than 99% human, with a small animal component, making up around 0.1%. The embryo would be grown in the lab for a few days, then harvested for stem cells - immature cells that can become many types of tissue.
When I Googled the Bill just now to check I'd got the science right, the first hit was on this site: http://hfebill.org. The blurb suggests it's an impartial guide to the Bill - "This website has been created to provide briefing material and information on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Here you can keep up to date with the latest news, press articles, bill amendments, parliamentary questions and much more". The site is, however, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, so I suspect it's far from impartial on the key issues. I wonder if, for example, they'll be adding a link to Lord Winston's comments today: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7310918.stm
For the record, I'm very much in favour of the Bill, not least because of what I've learnt over the last few years about cystic fibrosis. Here are some links which tell you a bit more about how advances in gene therapy could help find a cure for the disease: