`Dolly the sheep' scientist to clone human embryos

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THE SCIENTIST who cloned Dolly the sheep has been given permission to use the same technique to clone human embryos for medical experiments.

It is only the second licence issued by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that allows scientists to clone human embryos for research.

Professor Ian Wilmut, of the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, will use the Dolly technique he pioneered to create cloned embryos from skin cells taken from patients with motor neurone disease.

The scientist's aim is to produce embryonic stem cells - which can be made to develop into any one of the dozens of specialised tissues of the body - that can be studied in the laboratory for signs of the neurodegenerative disease.

Professor Wilmut said yesterday that the embryos would not be allowed to live beyond the legal limit of 14 days before being destroyed and that there was no intention of allowing cloned babies to be born, which is illegal in Britain. "This is not reproductive cloning in any way," he said.

Professor Christopher Shaw, a neuroscientist at King's College London, who will collaborate on the project, said the hope was to grow nerve cells in the test tube with the symptoms of motor neurone disease. He said that by turning embryonic stem cells from motor neurone patients into nerve cells, scientists would have an opportunity to understand the illness and how to treat it with new drugs.

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