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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Second bid made to clone humans
Cloned embryos
The technique involves removing the nucleus of a human egg cell
Scientists have applied for a second licence to clone human embryos in the fight to prevent the spread of disease.

In August, the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) granted a license to experts at the University of Newcastle to clone human eggs.

It was the first time a British team was granted permission to insert DNA into unfertilised eggs and could lead to cures for diabetes and Alzheimer's.

Now another university team wants to take the research further.

They want to transfer the nucleus of a human embryo into an unfertilized egg from a donor.

But the issue of human cloning is controversial with those against believing it to be unethical.

The aim of the procedure would be to prevent mothers from passing a range of degenerative genetic diseases, caused by defects in mitochondrial DNA, on to their unborn babies.

The research group proposes to develop techniques to prevent transmission of mitochondrial disease from mother to child
Joint statement by Dr Mary Herbert and Prof Doug Turnbull

The latest application has been made by researchers led by Doug Turnbull, professor of neurology at the university, and Dr Mary Herbert, scientific director of Newcastle Fertility Centre at the city's Centre for Life.

In a joint statement they said: "'People with defects of mitochondrial DNA have a number of different clinical problems including severe muscle disease, epilepsy, dementia, stokes and heart failure.

"Newcastle is a major centre for the diagnosis and management of patients with this kind of disease from all over the UK.

"For many people there is no effective treatment and there is progressive disability leading to death.

"The research group proposes to develop techniques to prevent transmission of mitochondrial disease from mother to child."

The team wants to attempt the procedure, which has already shown promising results in mice, with human cells.

About one in 10,000 adults and one in 5,000 children are at risk of developing mitochondrial DNA disease.

Mitochondrial DNA is found outside the nucleus of an embryo and is inherited separately from the DNA found in the nucleus.

The researchers hope that implanting the nucleus of an embryo of a mother with defective mitochondria into the egg of a woman with healthy DNA, will result in a disease-free baby.





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SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Therapeutic cloning
21 Apr 04  |  Health


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