Human Embryos

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Human Embryos

Postby JFH » Tue Feb 08, 2005 3:12 am

The BBC is today reporting that a licence is to be sought for research into Motor Neurone Disease by a respected UK academic Prof Ian Wilmut. Discussion on the air waves suggests that this licence is very likely to be granted and that this research would have wider field of interest (MS?).

From the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4245267.stm
Professor Ian Wilmut and a team at Kings College in London plan to clone early stage embryos to study motor neurone disease (MND).

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is expected to grant consent.

Professor Wilmut says it would mean the disease can be studied in unprecedented detail. But critics argue that testing human embryos is immoral.

Therapeutic cloning for research has been legal in the UK since 2001 and it would be only the second time the authority has given consent.

This is a very exciting development

Professor Roger Pederson, professor of regenerative medicine at Cambridge University


Q&A: Therapeutic cloning

The professor's team was the first to apply for a therapeutic cloning licence in the country.

Up until now, scientists have wanted to create cloned embryos to see if they can be grown into tissues to repair damaged body parts, explained the BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh.

But Professor Wilmut's proposal is different as he does not plan to grow healthy replacement tissue.

Instead he aims to deliberately clone embryos that have MND from patients who have the condition.

Professor Wilmut, of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, says cells from the embryos can be used to study how the disease progresses in unprecedented detail.

He also says the cells can be used to try out new drugs to see if they stop the disease from progressing.

MND is caused by the death of cells - called motor neurones - that control movement in the brain and spinal cord.

Muscle weakness

It affects about 5,000 people in the UK. Half of people with MND die within 14 months of diagnosis.

Weakness in the muscles that supply the face and throat also cause problems with speech and difficulty chewing and swallowing.

The aim is to study what goes wrong in the nerve cells of patients suffering from MND.

Patients groups say studying human embryo cells might provide more information than animal experiments alone.

Those opposed to the research say the work is unethical, unnecessary and a step toward full blown human cloning.

However, Professor Wilmut has previously stressed that his team has no intention of producing cloned babies, and said the embryos will be destroyed after experimentation.

Professor Roger Pederson, professor of regenerative medicine at Cambridge University, said: "This is a very exciting development. It will enable the disease to be studied throughout its development.

"It's very likely to work."
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Postby NPA » Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:41 pm

This news has already created a debate on the discussion board of http://www.msrc.co.uk
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Postby SarahLonglands » Wed Feb 09, 2005 5:54 am

Gosh, yes, so there has, but on the other hand look at how much discussion there has already been here, in different threads.
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Postby NPA » Wed Feb 09, 2005 4:15 pm

What I find intriguing in this particular debate is that some people can't differentiate between a human embryo and egg cells which have been voluntarily donated and which have not beeen fertlised and all genetic material removed so that it would never become a human being anyway.

To me this removes any ethical considerations regarding abortion/pro-life and surely must be promising. The only concerns I have is that egg cell donation is regulated.
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Postby SarahLonglands » Thu Feb 10, 2005 4:31 am

Yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one. I can't see the difference between this and organ donation after death. It is nothing to do with the pro-life debate, but some people, some of my friends included, seem to get extraordinarily worked up even thinking about it. You ovulate at least every month for about 40 years and the majority of these eggs just go to waste, so why quibble about a few of them being made good use of and helping people? They are never going to become children, so what's the problem?

I sometimes wonder how many people who, say, are dead against (their own and their families) organ donation, because they want to be buried intact, would refuse a life saving donation themselves?

Egg donation should of course, be regulated, in the same way that organ donation should be, because to take advantage of third world people who are desperate just for a few pounds/dollars, would be wrong.

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