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Tuesday, 7 November, 2000, 09:32 GMT
Call for embryo cloning
Stem cells in lab
Stem cells are used to grow human tissue
Leading scientists will tell MPs that they should be allowed to clone human embryos to try to find cures for crippling diseases and injuries.

The Royal Society says embryos should be cloned so that vital stem cells can be harvested by researchers.

The cells allow them to grow human tissue that could help victims of diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis.

The tissue could also help those who have suffered spinal injuries or similar conditions.

Pro-life Campaigners

A report on the issue, explaining the Royal Society's position, will be given to MPs on Tuesday. It is set to anger pro-life campaigners.

Its leading author, Dr Richard Gardener, said the society's 21 years of experience in the field showed that using embryo cells presented the best chance to help sufferers.

He told BBC Two's Newsnight programme: "We know that they can give rise to all the types of adult cell.

"They have the potential to do that, and this practical experience means we know the conditions under which one can make them form nerve muscle, heart muscle, ordinary muscle."

'Exciting reports'

Dr Gardener's report concludes that despite "exciting recent reports" about breakthroughs in developing adult stem cells in mice, science cannot turn its back on embryo research.

It says that the research with mice is still at a very early stage, and that "it is possible we will never be able to overcome all of the hurdles blocking the path to their potential use therapeutically".

Embryo cloning of stem cells appears more promising.

"This can only be determined by allowing more research that will enable a critical evaluation of the potential use of stem cells from both sources," it says.

The report warns that if the research is blocked, some British scientists might decide to move overseas.

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See also:

09 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Step forward in stem cell control
30 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Body parts cloning 'to go ahead'
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