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Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Bid to create human embryo clones
Professor Ian Wilmut
Professor Ian Wilmut does not want to make babies
The first application to produce human embryo clones in Britain could be lodged within six months.

Professor Ian Wilmut plans to seek permission to use the technique that created Dolly the sheep to make early human embryos.

Professor Wilmut, from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, says research could then begin on stem cells - with the aim of one day helping combat degenerative diseases, such as heart failure and diabetes.


An application for human stem cell research has evolved and is now under way

Professor Ian Wilmut
There are still various regulatory hurdles to overcome, but Professor Wilmut is confident that he will be successful.

However, the Catholic Church in Scotland has voiced its opposition to the use of human embryos for any such purpose.

Professor Wilmut is the head of the Roslin Institute's gene expression and development division.

Dolly was produced by the institute, becoming the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.

Professor Wilmut hopes to use nuclear transfer, the technique that brought Dolly into the world, to create early human embryo clones - genetically identical to cells taken from the adult.

External bodies

"An application for human stem cell research has evolved and is now under way," he confirmed.

"If it is approved by the institute's ethics and management committee then it will face external bodies.

"We expect the whole process to take about six months."

Dolly
Dolly the sheep was created at the institute
The licensing process would involve at least four ethics committees, including the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's science and clinical review boards.

Professor Wilmut's research has suggested that all animal clones may be genetically and physically defective.

In January, he confirmed that Dolly had arthritis and said the condition might have arisen because of genetic defects caused by the cloning process.

He stressed he had no wish to create baby clones by implanting embryo copies into a surrogate mother, a process which is illegal in the UK.

Professor Wilmot believes that this would be unsafe and unethical.


An embryo is a human life with potential

Catholic Church spokesperson
Instead, he hopes to create stem cell lines that could one day help treat heart disease or test how someone might respond to drugs.

His research could focus on growing cardiac cells to repair a failing heart and nerve cells to treat Parkinson's disease, or islet cells for diabetes sufferers.

However, the Scottish Catholic Church said it opposed the use of human embryos for stem cell research.

"An embryo is a human life with potential. To use that as a means to someone else's end - however well intentioned - is wrong," said a spokesperson.

"We make no distinction between that and the forcible removal of organs from a living adult, to another adult."

Last year, American company Advanced Cell Technology published details of what it claimed were early human embryo clones.

The work Professor Wilmut would like to do in the UK is understood to have been going on in China for some time.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
"The aim is to find treatments for currently incurable diseases"
Professor Ian Wilmut, Roslin Institute
"We do not intend to produce a child"
See also:

16 Sep 02 | Scotland
10 Apr 02 | Scotland
04 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
04 Jan 02 | UK
06 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
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