Scientists Allowed to Start Human Cloning

Article excerpt

Byline: Elizabeth Pane

British scientists were given the go-ahead yesterday to clone human embryos for medical research.

The decision means the University of Newcastle team could become only the second in the world to carry out human cloning.

Scientists in South Korea announced earlier this year they had produced the first definitive human cloned embryos.

Yesterday's announcement by the Human Embryonic and Fertilisation Authority (HFEA), the research licensing body, was welcomed by academics but strongly condemned by pro-life campaigners.

Professor Jack Scarisbrick, national chairman of the group Life called the move 'a further step down the slippery slope'.

The Newcastle team plans to duplicate early-stage embryos and extract stem cells from them which can be used for radical new treatments.

The embryos are destroyed before they are 14-days-old and never allowed to develop beyond a cluster of cells the size of a pinhead.

For scientists they hold rich seams of stem cells which could become any type of tissue in the body including bone, muscle, nerves and organs.

Researchers hope to use them to treat various diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes, which at present are incurable.

Cloning to create copies of human babies is outlawed in Britain but therapeutic cloning has been legal since 2002.

In May, Newcastle University's Stem Cell Group applied for a licence to permit human cloning as part of its research programme.

The green-light was given after weeks of debate and much soul-searching by the HFEA.

Dr Miodrag Stojkovic, from the university's Institute of Human Genetics, said: 'It has taken a year of work, and I am most pleased that the HFEA has recognised the potential of this technology in modern medicine.'

The Stem Cell Group has launched an appeal for extra funding and is seeking partners from the private sector. …