Australia licenses cloning of human embryos for stem cell research

Mumbai: The Australian government has issued the world's first licence to clone a human embryo, allowing scientists at in-vitro fertilisation firm Sydney IVF to create cloned human embryos to extract embryonic stem cells.

Sydney IVF said it would use only eggs that are unusable for IVF and which donors had given consent for in the research, adding, three different types of cells - embryonic stem cells, cumulus cells attached to the collected eggs and skin cells – would be used to produce the cloned embryos.

The IVF firm claims to have a unique combination of skills, technology and access to 7,200 human eggs for its research. Sydney IVF also claims to be the first, in 2004, to extract stem cells from Australian IVF embryos. It has since extracted and grown 10 more colonies of embryonic stem cells this way, the firm said.

Researchers at the fertility company said the licence would help them gain unprecedented insights into the crippling conditions like muscular dystrophy and Huntington's disease and develop ways to treat them.

If the firm is successful it would be a world first to clone a human embryo, the Australian government's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which granted the licence, said.

While scientists in other countries have made stem cells similar to embryonic cells, none have so far used cloned human embryos to extract embryonic stem cells.