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Britain to Reject Clone Application

November 7, 2001

LONDON (AP) _ The government said Wednesday it plans to reject an expected application from an Italian fertility doctor who wants to clone babies in Britain.

Dr. Severino Antinori, who is part of an international team seeking to become the first to clone a human being, has said he intends to apply to Britain’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority for a license to begin work on cloning babies.

His group says it is pursuing cloning as a treatment for couples who are unable to have their own children.

``Worldwide, this is not considered acceptable and it will remain illegal in the United Kingdom,″ junior health minister Hazel Blears told lawmakers.

``The government is absolutely clear that reproductive cloning cannot take place in the U.K.,″ she said.

The government insists the creation of babies by cloning is illegal in Britain. But an anti-abortion organization has challenged that view in court, saying the law applies only to embryos created by fertilization of an egg by sperm. The government insists it applies to all embryos.

Legislators have urged the government to clarify the matter by introducing a separate, explicit cloning ban.

In cloning, scientists remove the genetic material from an egg and replace it with that of a cell taken from the person being cloned. The reconstructed egg is then prodded to divide. Classic fertilization does not take place.

In January, Britain became the first country to specifically authorize some cloning when it tweaked its embryo research laws to allow cloning only for research on embryonic stem cells.

Stem cells are the master cells found in embryos that give rise to all other cells. Doctors hope they will be able to cure or treat hundreds of diseases by directing stem cells to develop into any type of tissue needed for transplant.

The stem cells are extracted when the embryo is a few days old. Scientists hope that by taking stem cells from embryos created by cloning a cell from a sick person, transplants would be a perfect match, eliminating the basic problem of the immune system rejecting transplants because they come from someone else’s body.

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