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scientist’s respond to HFEA’s go-ahead for therapeutic cloning license

Reactions as the HFEA decided to allow a team at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to experiment with therapeutic human cloning.

Dr Stephen Minger, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, Kings College London, said:

“This is excellent news – the team definitely deserve it and they certainly have the expertise. This is a huge advance for British science, if not for the whole stem cell community. It is indicative of the UK’s tight regulatory process that this kind of research can proceed without the fear that it can be used for reproductive cloning.”

Dr Simon Best, UK BioIndustry Association (BIA), ethics advisor, said:

“This is a positive and important step that will help keep the UK at the leading edge of responsible and well-regulated research into a major new area of medicine.”

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Division, Developmental Genetics for the National Institute for Medical Research (Medical Research Council), said:

“I’m very pleased with this decision. Using cloning technology to derive embryonic stem cells genetically identical to a patient is potentially very important, not only to provide a source of cells that may be used to cure patients, but also to allow for genetic disease to be studied and potential drug treatments to be explored in the laboratory. It should allow us to study genetic disease without having to use humans as guinea pigs, or indeed, guinea pigs as humans.”

John Gillot, spokesperson for Genetic Interest Group, said:

“The Genetic Interest Group welcomes the granting of a license for this work. It will contribute both to the understanding of disorders and possible therapeutic approaches. After lengthy discussions of the principle, at last UK based scientists are beginning to explore this important area.”

Dr Ian Wilmut, Roslin Institute, said:

” am delighted with this news. I believe that cells derived from cloned embryos will be very important in research, as well as in the treatment of disease. There are many unpleasant human diseases that reflect the loss of cells that are not replaced, these include Parkinson’s, diabetes, spinal chord injury, and some forms of blindness. There is no fully effective treatment for many of these diseases, and so the exciting new approach of transferring of new cells into patients is very important.”

Dr Colin McGuckin, Reader in Stem Cell Biology, Kingston University, said:

“The prospect of cloning human cells to understand genetic diseases, particularly rare diseases, is an exciting prospect. Research on many rare diseases has been severely hampered by the ability to find and study the genes responsible. This has been a major limitation to advancing real gene therapies. The move towards therapeutic cloning as a research vehicle to find a cure for genetic diseases is extremely important. However, it should not be assumed that this is an answer to all genetic diseases and particularly not to degenerative diseases since the complexity of those disorders is unlikely to be reversed through gene therapy in the foreseeable future.”

Professor John Harris, Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics, University of Manchester, said:

“The HFEA are to be congratulated on licensing this important research proposal. Therapeutic cloning will in the immediate future be a vital tool in harnessing the power of stem cells to treat some of the major diseases which threaten humankind – this decision is a signal of our society’s compassion and concern for those threatened by disease.”

Professor Chris Higgins, Director, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre and Head of Division, Imperial College London, said:

“This research will give new insights which will ultimately enable medical scientists to develop new treatments for many debilitating diseases. The detail in which this proposal has been considered shows the rigour of the UK regulatory system in consulting and considering all the issues relating to this type of research. I, personally, am very pleased that the HFEA considers that the potential benefits of this research for the health and quality of life of millions of people is an overriding consideration in making their decision.”

Juliet Tizzard, Director, Progress Educational Trust, said:

“The HFEA is to be congratulated for licensing this research, thereby recognizing the immense medical benefits this research work might bring about in the fight against diabetes, and other diseases. All the eggs used in this research will be donated by IVF patients who do not need them for their own treatment. The fact that these ordinary patients are prepared to donate their own unused eggs towards this research is an example of the high level of public support for medical stem cell research.

“The suggestion that the creation of cloned embryos for research will inevitably lead to the birth of cloned babies is simple scare mongering. Cloning for reproduction would be dangerous for mother and baby and, as it happens, is illegal in the UK.

“It would be a tragedy if unfounded fears about a “slippery slope” were used to stop the development of stem cell treatments for cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.”

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