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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 June, 2004, 01:41 GMT 02:41 UK
UK 'to approve human cell clones'
Cloned embryos
Stem cells would be used to treat diabetic patients
Scientists look set to get approval to create Britain's first cloned human embryo, the Observer has reported.

An application by a Newcastle University team goes before the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) on Wednesday.

The HFEA has already given its support in principle and is planning a public announcement in July, the paper says.

If the project goes ahead, stem cells from the cloned embryos will initially be used to treat diabetes patients.

The Newcastle University team, led by Dr Miodrag Stojkovic, plans to use the same technique that was used to create Dolly the cloned sheep.


Once created, the embryos will be cultured to the stage at which they start producing stem cells.

These cells would be used to create insulin-producing cells which could be inserted into diabetes patients, using some of their own DNA to ensure their bodies do not reject the cells.

If it goes ahead, the project is likely to be welcomed by doctors, who hope cloned cells may one day be used to treat conditions ranging from strokes and spinal cord injuries to Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease.

But it will prove controversial, with protests expected from religious and anti-abortion groups and by those who fear allowing therapeutic cloning could pave the way to allowing the creation of cloned babies.

The world's first cloned human embryos were created by scientists in South Korea in February and a similar experiment has also been conducted in the US.

Cloning human embryos for therapeutic purposes was made legal by an amendment to the Human Embryology Act in January 2001.

But cloning humans for reproductive purposes remains illegal and is punishable by a 10-year prison sentence and unlimited fines.

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