Members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority met yesterday to consider the first application to clone human embryos.Smart idea. If they find effective therapies for diabetes, they'll have a huge market in the US based on current obesity trends.
If it is approved, the team of researchers at Newcastle University, led by Dr Miodrag Stojkovic, will clone human embryos and use them as sources of embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to form any of the hundreds of different tissues found in the body. The researchers hope their work will lead to huge advances in medicine, among them novel treatments for disease.
"Our aim is clear: to use these stem cells to find a solution to diabetes," said Dr Stojkovic, at the university's institute for human genetics.
If the HFEA approves the application, as many scientists expect, Dr Stojkovic's group plans to take unfertilised eggs, which would otherwise be discarded as surplus from IVF clinics, and remove the genetic material inside them. The hollowed-out eggs will then be filled with genetic material taken from the skin cells of diabetics.Seems like a cool plan, but then England has their share of nay-sayers -
Nurturing the eggs for six to eight days produces a tiny ball of around 100 cells, from which embryonic stem cells can be extracted. By treating the stem cells with various growth promoters, Dr Stojkovic plans to turn the stem cells into pancreas cells.
Because they are genetically identical to the other cells in the person's body, the newly created pancreas cells can be implanted without being rejected by the immune system. Once there, they should start producing insulin, potentially curing the condition.
The push to begin research on cloned human embryos has reignited a storm over the necessity, ethics and safety of therapeutic cloningBut at least they don't have Baby Bush and Ashcroft deciding what science is.
Patrick Cusworth, of the anti-abortion group Life, said: "This is a profoundly dehumanising process. It attempts to change the status of the human embryo as the beginning point of human life into little more than a pharmaceutical product.
"It's also giving diabetics false hopes. You would need around 35m human eggs to treat everyone in the UK with diabetes. It's totally unfeasible.".