Two teams of Australian scientists have applied for a licence to use eggs left over from fertility treatment to create cloned human embryos, Australian newspapers report. The application, which is the first to be made in the country, has been submitted to a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) panel meeting in Canberra for consideration.
The research teams from Monash University in Melbourne and the Australian Stem Cell Centre have applied for $1 million worth of grants under a joint stem cell research project between Victoria and New South Wales. Victoria was the first state in Australia to allow scientists to conduct 'therapeutic cloning', after passing legislation last year that was identical to that introduced by the Federal Parliament in December 2006. New South Wales soon followed suit becoming the second state to permit the technique.
The scientists hope to use SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer), also known as 'therapeutic cloning', to create cloned human embryos to help further research into diseases and disorders such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. The technique requires the use of unfertilised human eggs, from which the genetic material is replaced with that taken from the patient. It is believed that stem cells can be extracted from the cloned embryos which will be an identical genetic match to a patient, eliminating the risk of rejection.
The teams have joined up with Sydney IVF to perform the proposed research. Research director at Sydney IVF, Thomas Stojanov, was confident the licence would be approved saying that 'if we did this, we'd be the first in the world.' Professor Richard Boyd, of Monash University, explained the potential of creating stem cells using a patient's own genetic material: 'Éwe are cloning a part of the patient's skin or the disease so the purpose is to understand what has gone wrong in the disease process in that patient and ultimately to try and create new therapies for that specific disease,' he said. 'This is the sort of technology we need to bring Australia in line with the rest of the world for a start, and hopefully push us to the very forefront', he added.