LONDON, DEC. 19, 2000 (
United Kingdom politicians have voted decisively in favor of extending the research done on human embryos, BBC reported today.

The vote by Members of Parliament to relax the existing rules was a two-thirds majority, with 366 members voting for the amendment and 174 against, BBC said. The British government wanted to relax the existing rules, so that special cells can be taken from embryos -- tiny human lives -- at a very early stage of development.

Researchers believe these embryonic stem cells will revolutionize the treatment of degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer´s and Parkinson´s, particularly when the cells are obtained using the cloning technology that produced Dolly the sheep, BBC said.

The highly controversial nature of so-called therapeutic cloning, and embryo experimentation in general, meant that Members of Parliament were given a free vote on an amendment to the 1990 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act, BBC said. As it stood, the act permitted licensed research using human embryos only for strictly limited purposes related to infertility, and for a limited period of 14 days.

Pro-lifers argued strongly against the measure. BBC quoted Peter Garrett, research director at the anti-abortion charity Life, as saying: "Firstly, to deliberately create and destroy human life is dehumanizing to the scientists who carry it out and the society that licenses it.

"Secondly, once you open the flood gates on the production of human cloned embryos, you are setting up the preconditions for full pregnancy cloning. My view is that we are only a couple of years away from cloning human beings."

During the debate public health minister Yvette Cooper made an impassioned plea for scientists to be given the go-ahead for stem cell research, denying it was a "slippery slope" to human cloning.