Scientists cheer embryonic stem-cell victory

March 1, 2002

Scientists were this week given a green light for human embryonic stem-cell research following endorsement by a House of Lords report.

The specially convened Lords' committee on stem-cell research conducted a year-long inquiry. It concluded that the therapeutic potential of stem cells outweighed ethical concerns over research on early human embryos.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has already granted "a handful" of licences to scientists in the United Kingdom to carry out work in the field and anticipates more applications in the near future.

The committee's report is likely to prompt even more applications.

Richard Gardner, a research professor of the Royal Society at Oxford University, said many scientists had been waiting for the report before pressing ahead. He said: "I couldn't have been happier than if I'd written it myself."

The Pro-Life Alliance was disappointed with what it saw as a flawed and biased inquiry. It has lodged a petition with the House of Lords against the recent Court of Appeal ruling in support of government legislation on embryonic research.

University teams from Sheffield, Edinburgh and Oxford are among those with a strong interest in the field.

The Medical Research Council regards stem-cell research as being a high strategic priority and spends £4.5 million on it per year, while the biotechnology and biological research council has invested £17 million in the field over the past decade. The Wellcome Trust has made 15 grants totalling £4.5 million for stem-cell research.

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