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2nd UK licence to clone human embryos

February 09, 2005 10:09 IST

The British government on Tuesday granted the creator of "Dolly the sheep" licence to clone human embryos for  research into Motor Neurone Disease, which affects the nervous system.

Scientists  from Kings College London and Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute, who led the team which created Dolly, will clone early stage embryos to study MND, which affects 5,000 people in the UK every year.

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MND, which is caused by the death of cells known as motor neurones which control movement in the brain and the spinal cord.

The disease leads to weakness in the muscles that supply the face and throat, causing problems with speech  and difficulty in chewing and swallowing. More than 50 per cent of the people diagnosed with the disease die within a year of its onset.

Britain was the first country to legalise research in therapeutic cloning in 2001, and this was the second such licence. Dr Wilmut's team was the first to apply for for such a licence in the country.

One more step towards human cloning 

Scientists have usually wanted to create cloned embryos to see if they can be grown into tissues to repair damaged human organs.

But instead of growing healthy human replacement tissue, Dr Wilmut  proposes to deliberately clone embryos from patients who have MND in order to "study how the disease progresses in very close detail.   The cells will be used to try out new drugs to see if they stop the disease from progressing. Our aim will be generate stem cells purely for research purposes."