The Royal Society has published an update on embryo stem cell research and therapeutic cloning - the use of cloned early embryo cells for research into new therapies for illnesses such as Parkinson's disease. It presented its findings to MPs last week, at a meeting held jointly with the Medical Research Council and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. MPs and Lords are due to vote later this year on the proposed legislative changes that would permit such research to go ahead.
The report concludes that research on human early embryo cells is necessary because other cell types, such as adult stem cells, might not have the same breadth of applications. 'Members of both houses should accept that this research on early embryos is scientifically necessary if we are to ensure that patients benefit from the full range of potential treatments as quickly as possible' said Professor Richard Gardner, author of the report. An editorial in the Times newspaper supported his view, saying that the report makes it clear there are no scientific justifications for rejecting embryo stem cell research. To do so 'would send out an ominous message about the future of research in Britain', it concludes.
Dr Maureen McHugh, of the Special Parkinson's Interest Group (SPRING), has also urged MPs to allow work on the new therapies to begin. 'It's vital that the government makes these changes' she told the Guardian newspaper. 'The embryos in question are very early. An individual being hasn't been established at that point'.