New bid to limit use of cloned embryos for medical research

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Health ministers introduced legislation yesterday to regulate the use of cloned embryos for medical research and said further measures might be needed to close new loopholes.

Health ministers introduced legislation yesterday to regulate the use of cloned embryos for medical research and said further measures might be needed to close new loopholes.

The introduction into the House of Lords of the Human Reproductive Cloning Bill came after ministers admitted that current law on embryo research did not cover cloning.

The Government wants to ban so-called reproductive cloning while allowing the cloning of embryos for research into stem cells. These are master cells that can develop into any type of tissue and could be used to treat a range of intractable diseases. Ministers feared a loophole would have permitted human clones to be created legally in Britain.

As the new Bill was being introduced, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, the Health minister, acknowledged that embryo clones created legally for medical research might still fall outside existing or planned legislation.

He said that if this happened, the Government "will not hesitate to bring forward further legislation, when Parliamentary time allows to ensure that embryos created in this way are regulated in the same way as embryos created by fertilisation".

The emergency legislation follows condemnation by politicians, church leaders and experts in bio-ethics of the announcement on Sunday that a UScompany has created the world's first embryonic human clone for therapeutic purposes.

President George Bush led the chorus of disapproval saying that cloning a human embryo was morally indefensible and should be banned.

Advanced Cell Technology, a biotechnology company based in Worcester, Massachusetts, said that it had created a cloned human embryo that had grown to the six-cell stage as part of a research project into embryonic stem cells.

The company said it had no intention of being involved in so-called reproductive cloning, where a cloned embryo is implanted into the womb.

ButSeverino Antinori, an Italian fertility doctor, said yesterday he would clone a human embryo for reproductive purposes within six months.

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