Grow a Clone Donor; Spare-Part Embryos Could Beat Killer Diseases
A BREAKTHROUGH in the treatment of cancer and other killer diseases is closer today after scientists advising the Government opened the door to the cloning of human embryos for research.
In future, spare-part tissue grown from embryo cells in a laboratory could be used to repair damaged muscle, organs, skin and nerves.
As the cells would be taken from the patients themselves, there would be no risk of their bodies rejecting the transplant.
And one day, everyone could even be genetically "twinned" at birth to have his or her own spare-part "bank" of cells to supply new tissue when needed.
Experts have been discussing the ethical and legal aspects of cloning ever since the scientific success in creating Dolly the sheep in 1997.
Currently the law forbids cloning human embryos. Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, the penalty is up to 10 years in jail.
Embryos less than 14 days old may be used for research only for certain very strictly-defined purposes.
These include promoting advances in the treatment of fertility, increasing knowledge about the causes of congenital disease and developing ways of detecting gene abnormalities.
Research aimed at developing new forms of replacement tissue treatment is not covered.
But now a working group of the Human Genetics Advisory Commission and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is urging changes in the Act.
Controversially, it wants the law to allow cloning to help develop treatments for diseased or damaged tissues or organs."
In a report published yesterday, the working group stressed that cloning of human beings should remain banned.
But critics still see the move as a step too far, enabling human cloning research to be taken to the limit of what is acceptable.
Dr Patrick Dixon, who warns in his book Futurewise of the dangers of unrestrained research, said: "This is the perfect Christmas present for those who want to press ahead with human cloning."
HE ADDED: "They will be able to use British technology to steam ahead towards the day when human clones become a reality.""
Sir Colin Campbell, chairman of the HGAC defended the decision, saying "We believe it would not be right at this stage to rule out limited research which could be of great benefit to seriously- ill people.
"Techniques might be helpful with research into, and eventually treatment of, serious conditions such as Parkinson's, Huntingdon's, Alzheimer's and various types of cancer. …