ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  17 November 2000


The British Government is poised to cross the human cloning threshold by becoming the first country to allow and finance human embryo cloning. For more on human genetics see:

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Thanks to Wytze for forwarding item 1:

1.     European Union (EU) ethics panel report on embryo cloning - urls
2.     Embryo cloning for research is "premature," warns EU ethics panel

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1.     European Union (EU) ethics panel report + press release on embryo cloning urls, as pdf files. The full Opinion No. 15 is now available at:

Also in French at:

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2  Embryo cloning for research is "premature," warns EU ethics panel
    15 November 2000 - Yahoo Asia News

PARIS, Nov 14 (AFP) - Cloning embryos for research into stem-cell transplants, one of the most
ambitious yet controversial issues in medical science, would be "premature," a European Union (EU) ethics panel warned Tuesday.

The recommendation coincides with a national debate in Britain about whether to authorise so-called therapeutic cloning, something viewed with horror by the Roman Catholic church and other moral groups.

In a report to French President Jacques Chirac, whose country is current EU president, the European Group of Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) said the apparent benefits of stem-cell transplants were "very promising" but required prudence.

"At present, the creation of embryos by somatic cell nuclear transfer ('therapeutic cloning') for research on stem cell therapy would be premature," the document says.

"There is a wide field of research to be carried out with alternative sources of human cells: from spare embryos, foetal tissues and adult stem cells."

The EGE is an independent group that advises the European Commission and the European Parliament. It comprises a dozen scientists, lawyers, theologians and philosophers, the idea being that they can provide an ethical view on the great scientific subjects of the day.

Stem cells are primitive cells that scientists hope can one day be grown in a lab dish to repair damaged organs, such as injured spinal cords or brains affected by Alzheimer's disease.

The most scientifically exciting cells come from embryos that are a few days old and have the astonishing ability to develop in the womb into any part of the body.

But using embryo tissue is hotly contested.  In August, the British government announced plans to relax a law on human embryo cell cloning for research, to allow scientists to extract cells from embryos up to 14 days old and use them to grow skin and other tissue.

If parliament adopts the law, Britain will become the first country to allow and finance human embryo cloning.

France, like many other countries, outlaws any scientific use of embryos for moral reasons, although the United States has issued cautious guidelines that would allow embryo stem cells to be used in specific areas of research.

Opponents to embryonic research say the solution to the controversy lies in adult stem cells, a widely overlooked area of research.

Until recently, adult stem cells were known to exist only in certain types of adult tissue and it was considered difficult to isolate them and impossible to reprogramme them.

But an Italian study reported in October's Nature Neuroscience suggests that some types of adult stem cells could have major potential.

Researchers from the National Neurological Institute and Stem Cell Research Institute in Milan  took stem cells from an adult brain and used them to grow skeletal muscle, both in culture and in animals.

The EGE recommended the EU set up a budget to explore non-cloning sources of stem cells, especially adult tissue, and for the results of such research to be "widely disseminated."

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