More MS news articles for Nov 2001

UK judge defers judgment in cloning case

Nov 01, 2001
By Stephen Pincock

LONDON, (Reuters Health) - Anti-abortion campaigners challenging the UK government's embryo cloning regulations said on Thursday that they were optimistic about a favorable outcome after a high court judge deferred judgment on the case.

The UK gave the go-ahead to stem cell and therapeutic cloning research earlier this year, allowing embryos to be created for this purpose under the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

But the ProLife Alliance argues that cloned embryos cannot be regulated under that Act as they do not fit the definition of an embryo as stated in the legislation. On Wednesday they sought a Judicial Review of the parliamentary vote before the High Court, arguing that the Human Embryology and Fertility Authority cannot licence the use of the technique.

The government argues that the embryo definition used in the Act covers both fertilisation and cell nuclear transfer, or cloning, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health told Reuters Health.

"We are genuinely optimistic," a spokeswoman for ProLife Alliance told Reuters Health after returning from court. "We feel the judge absorbed out arguments very quickly." The judge is expected to come to a decision next week, she said.

"Cloned embryos have not undergone fertilisation and no sperm are involved in their production; therefore they are totally outside the regulatory scheme provided by the Act. As a consequence, the government has no way at present of controlling these new technologies, leaving us in a very vulnerable position as numerous rogue scientists press ahead with their plans to clone human beings,'' the group said in a statement.

Therapeutic cloning involves creating a human embryo from which stem cells--master cells scientists hope will treat a variety of diseases--can be extracted. The process of extracting stem cells destroys the embryos a few days after they are created.

The technique of embryo cloning could allow treatments to be tailored to an individual patient, preventing rejection of transplanted stem cells. For example, the patient's cells could be used to create a cloned embryo and then stem cells could be extracted and implanted back into the patient to treat disease.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited