Lords back broader stem cell research

January 26, 2001

British science was cautiously celebrating a victory this week after the House of Lords voted to extend human stem cell research.

The Lords overturned an amendment by anti-abortion campaigner Lord Alton that opposed the broadening of regulations.

From the end of January, researchers will be able to apply for a licence to carry out stem cell research and therapeutic cloning of human embryos for the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's and cancer. But a nine-month moratorium has been set while a Lords select committee reports on the ethical issues connected to such work.

Oxford University pathologist Paul Fairchild said: "As scientists, we will have to work hard to dispel the spectre of human cloning." He also noted that the delay could set back the commercialisation of stem cell research in the UK as US scientists file patents in their less regulated scientific environment.

David King of the Campaign against Human Genetic Engineering accused the government of being irresponsible in pushing for a vote before the select committee could report. He argued that the vote should not have gone ahead until there was a global ban on reproductive cloning.

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