LONDON, FEB. 27, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Britain´s scientists received the go-ahead to pioneer the cloning of human embryos for research and set up the world´s first embryo cell bank, Reuters reported today.
A House of Lords committee ruled that embryo cloning should be allowed to proceed under strict conditions.
The select committee set up last year to examine claims that making the clones was unnecessary has decided that the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) can issue research licenses, BBC reported.
Supporters of the research contend it is necessary to find ways of regenerating tissues such as nerves, muscle and cartilage to treat the elderly and disabled. But opponents say equally effective treatments could be developed using adult cells, without the need to destroy embryonic human beings.
The HFEA, the body that regulates embryology research in Britain, is likely to issue licenses to begin experimenting with human embryos almost immediately, BBC said.
British controls on cloning under the 1990 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act were designed to place barriers in the way of anyone wanting to produce a child copy of a human being.
Last year Britain became the first country explicitly to allow the creation of embryos as a source of stem cells — the primitive master cells which turn into other cell types and which defenders said could be used to find cures to a range of diseases.
Pro-life groups criticized the House of Lords´ work. Peter Garrett, director of research at the charity Life, said: “This committee is a put-up job. It is part of a larger effort to con the public into believing that therapeutic cloning is not cloning. The whole exercise has been a cosmetic one from start to finish.”