Scientists are asking the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for permission to clone a human embryo for the first time in the UK.
A team from Newcastle wants to create embryos, which would be clones of patients with diabetes, to grow new insulin-producing cells.
In the long-term, the technique could be used to grow a variety of types of body tissue for transplant, such as new brain cells for people with Parkinson's Disease.
Should embryo cloning be allowed? Would it be a medical advancement break-through or is it unethical to carry out this type of research? Send us your comments.
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
I'm 22. I have had Type 1 diabetes for 20 years. I'm just starting to get complications. I have a greatly reduced life expectancy. All the people here saying that it's part of life to have people with serious degenerative diseases - are you living with one? Are you living with the fact that when you should be at the start of your life it's beginning to end? All I hope is that this treatment gets perfected before it's too late for me and my eyes, legs and kidneys have become useless.
No, human beings should never be 'produced', not even in their initial stage as embryos. It would be a step towards Aldous Huxley's 'Brave new world'. Simultaneously to the transition from agricultural societies to industrial societies, more and more functions of the families are transferred to organizations. Work has moved from farms to offices and plants, education from parents to schools and kindergartens. And now, by their cloning experiments, scientist may pave the way for the non-familiar production of human beings, precisely meeting economical quality and quantity demands. Brave new world!
J Schroeter, Germany
Embryo cloning should most certainly be allowed, but it should be regulated by a committee with an elaborate understanding of the subject. If the modern technological societies choose not to do such research, it will still be done in places around the world. Curing diseases such as Alzheimers and Diabetes should remain a priority of scientists today.
Nicholas Armaro, Cuyahoga Falls USA
The problem with this kind of science is that it is a watershed to a darker outcome which no one can stop. Regardless of promises or attempts to control, science has a track record of pushing the boundaries or breaking the rules.
Simon Walker, UK
Yes! These are just cells! These experiments will save lives and stop suffering! Why is insanity being granted the status of ethical criticism? There is a point where ignorance of basic science and even reality must stop receiving tolerance as a legitimate difference of opinion and be seen as a mental dysfunction.
Thomas Jobb, Canada
The difference a few cells with no consciousness could make to many, many people is tremendous. These cells do not represent a viable human being any more than an ovum or sperm. Perhaps it represents potential to form a human, but no one is suggesting that all eggs and sperm should be used to produce people.
Matthew, Cambridge, England
No, there are already 6 billion humans on this planet. We do not need more humans or treatments to prolong human life.
If we are to achieve the dream of having a perfect world without disease, then why not let scientist clone embryos?
Joe, Hereford, England
Yes, BUT strictly for research into incurable diseases and to save lives. The research projects should also be monitored closely.
How people can be so selfish? They are going to kill innocent and fragile lives that cannot defend themselves to solve a problem that humanity has to live with: death. Everybody knows we are going to die one day, that's the only assurance in life we have. Diseases are there and we have to live with them for better or for worse. What I cannot accept is a scientist using the name of science to play God, only for money or power, which unfortunately are the forces that rule the society we live in. What a shame for the British people.
Adriana Lopes, Portugal
As a diabetic with all the associated complications I would welcome new cells to improve the quality and duration of my life. There are many others far worse off who may benefit from this research. S Simmons from London (below) should try having a serious chronic illness so he/she can review the matter!
Something that all the comment here miss out (or do not make clear) is that an embryo is a human life. It contains all the genetic instructions for a child. It is at the fertilisation of the sperm and egg that a human exists. To destroy that embryo a few days later for research purposes is to kill a human. It has all the potential to become human and we do not know what we are destroying by the killing of the embryo. It is murder, and the sixth commandment ("you shall not murder") must be obeyed in all circumstances. It is not right to do a wrong. Cloning of embryos must not be allowed.
Brian Reid, Oxford
I would rather die of disease then kill another Human. The embryo is a Human as well, in a miniature form.
Mir Haque, New York, USA
Hypocrisy - ethics comes into it when you're NOT going to get any benefits doesn't it? It's very easy to say now that that Bantings research on dogs was unethical. I myself have suffered Type 1 Diabetes for 25 years. 4 Injections a day, countless bloody tests, laser treatment for retinopathy, painful limbs and discrimination in everything from employment to car insurance. My quality of life would be much improved - as would my chances of not ending up in a wheelchair, full of failing organs. I'm in no position to say whether its right or wrong, but medical advances that keep your headaches at bay, your aches and pains in check and your viruses under control were produced using unethical methods. You leave them on the shelf and suffer before you tell me its unethical to give the millions of diabetic children some hope of a normal future.
Chris Shiels, Birmingham, UK
I don't think it should be pursued, most people are not worthy of this therapy and it will inevitably be used for the greedy and undeserving, with the innocent hereditary disorder sufferers used as a human shield. Inevitably it would allow greed and potentially faulty genes to filter through what is essentially natural selection. If a few truly great people could have been saved it's a shame but it doesn't justify the needs of the few, swaying the opinions of the many.
Mark Coley, Charlotte, NC
Hasn't anyone here ever thought that the cells from one embryo could save the lives of thousands of people? It may not sound very nice having to clone a person for cell research, but if the cells from that one embryo can help treat or even cure serious diseases that are killing people every day, isn't it worth trying? Don't be so short sighted.
Although the many scientific advantages of embryonic stem cell use for research purposes have been highlighted, the major disadvantages have been ignored. One of the first major disadvantages of any attempt to place cells from one human into another are the immunological issues, such as those faced by organ transplants. A good match of donor and patient can slow the rejection of transplanted cells and tissue to some extent, but transplanted cells will eventually be targeted by the immune system for destruction. Stem cell transplants therefore do not buy you a cure but merely time, usually at the expense of suppressing the immune system.
Another argument against embryonic stem cell use is the fact that it's not possible to create the right conditions for correct differentiation of embryonic stem cells on a Petri dish compared with the conditions in an embryo. Therefore the loss of the normal developmental signals could lead to production of abnormal cells. This could have serious consequences, such as tumour formations.
There are some serious limitations in potential usefulness of human embryonic stem cells in the future. This case has further been made stronger by a more useful and less controversial method of using adult stem cells. An adult stem cell is an undifferentiated cell found among differentiated cells in a tissue or organ, can renew itself and can differentiate to form the major specialised cell types of tissue or organ. Deriving cells from adult patients own tissues entirely solves the problem of immunological rejection. Therapeutic use of adult stem cells raises very few ethical issues and completely stops the need for the use of human embryos.
Mohammed Zahid, Saltley, UK
Of course embryo cloning should be allowed. The benefits that it could bring to controlling and curing severe illnesses, of which sufferers currently have no hope, far outweigh the argument put forward by the 'pro-lifers'. As long as it is properly regulated, the benefits that this kind of research could being deserve to be explored.
Michael, Birmingham, UK
Firstly, I have a degenerative neurological disorder called Freidreich's Ataxia. I back human cloning for therapeutic purposes whole-heartedly. Morality is subjective, and I find it strange how those who disagree with this have no connection with the issue. I mean that they only want to ban it because it means they can sleep soundly in their beds thinking they are a better person. For some people it is a matter of live and death.
Samuel, Bradford on Avon, UK
What has ethics to do with it? Or morality, come to that? A few years ago Sex before marriage was taboo, homosexuality was punishable by imprisonment, and so on. Morality and ethics vary with the perspective of the speaker, so it is with cloning. Let's give it a go, who knows it might be the best thing since sliced bread.
Barry p, Havant England
As much as we welcome the idea of cloning human embryo and the 'benefits' it will bring, caution must be taken to ensure that this technology does not fall into the wrong hands or is used for the wrong purposes! Thus, appropriate legislature/rules/regulations should be enforced with the appropriate punishment if these regulations are broken...
Siva, Birmingham, UK
If there is one thing I've learnt in life, it is that if something can be done, it WILL be done. Hence we are moving towards an Orwellian state, and will soon be able to drink and smoke as much as we please due to new organs being created for us. I fear for the future. Anyone know of a nice cave for sale?
Jim Rogerson, Leeds, England
Embryos are not conscious, they have no moral rights. In creating a cloned embryo to treat disease no one suffers, and someone may gain. It should be allowed in this case.
Robert, Zurich, Switzerland
Robert of Zurich, Switzerland says that embryos are not conscious and have no moral rights. I take it Robert doesn't personally know a woman who has been through the experience of miscarriage, even in the very early stages of pregnancy. An embryo is the beginning of life - surely that counts for something.
Linda, Hull, UK
And Linda from Hull is confusing the mental trauma of a fully grown human with the inability of a collection of cells to have even the most vague shadow of consciousness.
A Sweeting, Leicester, UK
I'd quite like to be cloned, it would be interesting from a philosophical point to view to see whether nature or nurture is indeed the most crucial...
Claire Trevien, Reading, England
When embryos are mentioned, people tend to think of a full formed unborn baby waiting to be born. The cluster of cells being discussed for this research is no more advanced than a small mould or fungus (which is also alive) and research into penicillin founded the way for many modern antibiotics. Knee-jerk reactions should not be confused with ethics.
David Soldini, East Grinstead, W. Sussex
The majority of people who say "just use cells from other places" seem to be unaware that an embryo is in fact (currently) the easiest place from which to extract the best stem cells. How many people objecting would change their tune when they found out they were going to die aged 40 from an illness that could be helped by embryonic stem cell research, I wonder.
Look around at the people near you. You see greed and ignorance. And we want cloning?
Nick, Weymouth, England
We raise and process animals to meet our needs. We are surely not so savage as to raise crops of human beings for the same reasons!
Michel, Brentwood UK
Doesn't all science interfere with nature? If people have such a problem with scientific intervention, then I assume they never take any antibiotics or other medication, and I assume they will reject a life saving operation should that situation arise. No doubt there are moral questions here, but the "we're messing with nature" argument simply doesn't stand up.
Gary Feldman, London, UK
No. Because it is immoral. What's next if this is going to be legal? Isn't it part of life that people have illness etc.
S. Simmons, London, England
Let's make this clear, they want to clone some cells, not a human being. This research could save the lives of thousands of cancer victims. What's the problem?
Cloning for medical purposes should definitely be allowed. My grandson was diagnosed Type 1 diabetic in December at the age of 6. It is heartbreaking to see him having to inject himself twice a day. Anything that can prevent a lifetime of this must be a good thing.
Trina Burgess, Barry, UK
Can they use embryo cloning to address the problem of premature baldness? How long before we can expect a cure?
Duncan, Milton Keynes
Progress is natural but ethics are not. Why argue upstream when the natural flow is down?
R.C. Robjohn, UK
We are moving in this direction because we can - it is the next great thing to do scientifically. However ethically it is a huge step in the direction of human cloning which is basically abhorrent.
Joanne Rider, Harrogate, UK
It is unethical to exploit one being for the sake of another. We look at the question with a 'gut reaction', with our emotions. We need to look at the question with our reason. Yes cloning may (unproven) save lives, but it destroys life in the process, and one should never do 'a wrong to achieve a good'
Chris, Glasgow Scotland
We're born, we get ill and then at some point we all die. I shudder to think that we may end up with tiny lives being used and then discarded so that we can have a pick-and-mix remedy for whatever ailment takes our fancy. The idea is abhorrent and I hope that all of us with any sense of morals will fight this actively tooth and nail. The proposals are completely nightmarish.
Vanessa Bailey, UK
I think that it is wrong to clone a human because people will soon want to design their own child, it should be a privilege to have children in the first place.
Gemma Shotton, Garden City, England
Time moves on and so should we. If we have the technology and the knowledge to save lives why not? This is long overdue and good luck to all scientists involved in this research!
Franziska, Sevenoaks, UK
I fully agree that Embryo cloning should be allowed to allow medical research. But in the mean time let it be legal (under strict supervision) to allow euthanasia, this would hopefully mean a lot less people suffering from incurable and degrading diseases whilst a cure is found.
Just because something is possible doesn't mean it should be done. There are ethical ways of treating illnesses such as Parkinson's which offer great promise. If we can't show restraint in our attitude to human life(no matter how small) we put all vulnerable members of society at risk.
John Deighan, Glasgow, Scotland
Mess with nature, and the nature would mess with you.
Toosy, Guildford, UK
It is wrong, unnatural and unethical. Why don't they put the money to something useful like stopping food additives, genetic modifying, crop spraying etc, invest in a less chemical environment and try and get the fine balance of nature back. Half of the ailments that are caused today are caused by the very things we eat and breath.
L King, Cambridgeshire
The same justification that is proposed today to kill an embryo for spare parts will be used tomorrow to kill a more developed foetus for spare parts, and in the future a baby. That may sound unbelievable, but it was a suggestion I read by a serious academic, that was made without a hint of irony or awareness of what he was suggesting, so fixated was he on the idea of treatment. We need to reject the concept of using a human being, however young, for spare parts.
Cloning is simply one more step in human evolution. It will be a wonderful gift to those who receive its new medical benefits.
Matthew, Bristol, England
In an already over populated world this makes no sense to me. Before long we'll reach critical mass. Let's put our energies into solving the problems we already have before we create more.
Creating a life purely to save a life? Isn't it about time we started allowing nature to take its course again? The more we strive to extend our own lives, the more we will have to restrict the creation of new ones.
Wile-E, Blyth, Northumberland
Most definitely not. We are in danger of creating a super race and scientists are interfering with nature.
Ron Innes, St Neots England
Of course they should be allowed to clone human embryos. It's just the natural progression of medicine, the next step. The argument that it is playing God just doesn't wash. You could argue that any form of medical treatment is 'playing God'. Just let them get on with it & ignore all these ridiculous moral arguments.
Having seen a close relative slowly lose their mind from Alzheimer's, I fail to understand how those who outright reject such research can put the "right" of a handful of embryonic cells above that of the millions of humans who's lives could benefit from the wide range of terrible diseases this research has the possibility of curing.
Tim Johnson, London, UK
Is it ethical not to help some one who suffering from a disease. A step in to the unknown takes courage, and belief in one's self. The time now is right to walk the path of embryo cloning and leave behind those dated ideas of "Playing God".
Clive, Dartford, Kent
Embryo cloning should not be allowed as it treats human lives as a commodity. We must find alternative ways to develop stem cells (e.g. from adults or umbilical cords) that do not require the creation and destruction of human life.
Paul, London, UK
It's going to happen before long anyway.
Philip Twydell, Nottingham, UK
Non-human animals have been cloned and genetically engineered for selfish reasons. The scientists simply brushed aside ethical and moral objections. Why should it be any different cloning humans?
CK Yoe, London
While there are many moral concerns about cloning, if having the ability to grow new organs in a lab for someone who would other wise go through years of painful medical treatments, then for those reasons it should be allowed. It should not be allowed to be used for designer babies.
Lara , UK
I agree with cloning up to a point. If it is your own genetic material which is being cloned to produce a cure for yourself, I really can't see a problem. You would be hard pressed to argue that an embryo is "conscious" and if you believe living things have "spirits", well I ask you - show me some evidence because you surely have none. So who am I (or you) to deny someone a cure?
For a society which thinks it is OK to kill and then eat whole animals, I can't see much problem with someone working with just a few cells from a human.
Andrew M, Walsall, UK
Let them do it. I'm sure the opinions of all those who are against it would soon change their minds if a loved one could be saved by a transplant from a lab grown clone.
Adrian Carter, York, UK