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Should embryos be used for cloning?

Newcastle scientists could be the first in the country to clone human embryos. But ethical concerns are being raised by pro-lifers and the scientific community. Here two of the city's leading scientists give their opinions on the issue

Yes

Dr Alison Murdoch of the Newcastle research team at the Centre for Life

The goal we are looking at is one of five to 10 years at least until clinical trials take place as a result of our research.

We want to get to the situation where if someone has diabetes we firstly take a sample of their skin tissue.

We then take the genetic material and insert it into a stem cell ( one which has all the genetic information of a person but has not decided what type of cell it is yet.

Then we make it into an insulin-producing cell. This cell contains all the same genetic material of that person and will be accepted by their body.

Reproductive cloning is not what we are doing and it is banned in the UK and in most other countries in the world.

I don't foresee anyone of any credibility doing it or even attempting to do so.

The fact our research is being done in the UK is good news because there are strict regulations governing what can be done.

We will publish our results in the appropriate scientific journals and we are working hard with people in Newcastle to make sure they are aware of all the information.

It is something that is going to be five to 10 years before clinical trials ( the fact is that it is going to take a long time but we have to start somewhere.

It was 25 years ago when we started looking at IVF research people thought it was unethical but 1.6% of babies born because of IVF treatment ( and those couples would not have families without that research.

There are some people who believe none of this research should have happened at all. I don't think the people who have benefited from IVF will agree with their views.

The potential benefits which we can get from this far out weighs those considerations.

No

Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert

I have two main objections to the research. Firstly is that the scientists are developing the technology straight away to clone human babies.

It crosses an important ethical line in that we are creating an embryo just for research reasons, not using a surplus embryo.

I'm not a pro-lifer but I think there is an important ethical line here.

Most of all is the idea that if we allow embryonic research to happen once, it gives it credibility as a form of research.

The other thing I'd like to say is there is a general assumption there may be solutions to problems such as diabetes but the research isn't it going to lead anywhere.

These are two aspects on this research which are highly problematic. The main problem is the therapeutic cloning. On the other hand, there is a question about the diabetes research.

The therapeutic cloning is a medical dead end. Medical companies have said they aren't interested in cloning for the very simple reason that in order to carry a stem cell for cloning you need hundreds of embryos.

There's a shortage of embryos in general and to do this research you have to do it on an incredible scale. That is never going to happen.

I'm very, very disappointed with scientists like Dr Murdoch who hold this possibility out to diabetes sufferers as if it is going to be the medical revolution of the 21st Century.

And the scientists are basically developing the same technology which could be used by unethical scientists to clone a human embryo to the extent of placing it in a woman's womb.

They are doing the fundamental groundwork, people like Professor Murdoch, to allow this and I think it is very irresponsible. This research is a waste of public money and crosses important ethical lines for the first time.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 17, 2004
Words:679
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