The creation of human embryos using SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer) - 'cloning technology' - is now legal in Sweden, governed by legislation that came into effect on 1 April. An amendment to the 'Activities Involving Human Eggs for Research or Treatment Purposes Act' of 1991 means that Swedish researchers can now carry out research on embryos, created by either IVF or SCNT, up to 14 days old.
The Riksdag, Sweden's single chamber parliament, voted to approve the research by an overwhelming majority on 2 February 2005. The new law forbids reproductive cloning - the implantation of embryos created in this way into a woman's body, stating that researchers who break this rule will be fined or imprisoned. The law also states that scientists must have permission from sperm, egg or body cell donors to use these tissues in embryo research, and that donors must be told of the purposes of the work. Additionally, the legislation forbids scientists from carrying out germline gene therapy research, stating that 'the purpose of experiments must not be to achieve hereditary genetic effects or to develop methods for that purpose'.
Many scientists believe that therapeutic cloning - the proposed use of stem cells from SCNT embryos to develop genetically-matched cell therapies - could help develop new treatments for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease. The research is controversial because it involves the destruction of human embryos, and is banned in many countries. The Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, drawn up in 1997, forbids the creation of human embryos for research purposes. However, although Sweden has signed the convention it has not yet ratified it, while the UK, which also permits therapeutic cloning research, has never signed it.