More MS news articles for April 2002

Cloning Scientists Seek Permission to Work on Human Embryos

Apr 11, 2002
LONDON (Reuters)

The scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep said on Thursday they plan to seek permission to experiment on human embryos for medical purposes.

In a move expected to raise concerns from some religious groups, the Roslin Institute will apply for a license to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the British government body that regulates embryo research.

"It will be several weeks before we put in a final application," said Roslin spokesman Dr. Harry Griffin. "It will be a few months before we know whether the proposal will be approved."

The Roslin Institute stunned the world in 1996 when it created Dolly, the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell. Since then, Britain, which has the world's most liberal policy on stem cell research, has said the cloning of human embryos for research should be allowed to proceed under strict conditions.

Last year Britain became the first country explicitly to allow the creation of embryos as a source of stem cells.

Dr. Griffin acknowledged that while some people will always feel such research is not appropriate, the issues have been subject to a lengthy debate in Britain. Roslin would be operating within a strictly defined legal and ethical framework, he said.

There was no immediate comment from the HFEA, but sources close to the authority said Roslin's proposed application appeared to be within the remit of British law on embryo research.

Reports last week that Italian fertility specialist Severino Antinori had managed to achieve a pregnancy in a woman as a result of human cloning prompted widespread skepticism among scientists.

Dr. Antinori was said to have made the claim in response to a question during a lecture in Abu Dhabi but has refused to confirm or deny media reports or clarify exactly what he said.

Critics of human embryo cloning say it represents the first step on a slippery slope to reproductive cloning, which is illegal in many countries, including Britain.

© 2002 Reuters Ltd