First licences granted for the derivation of human embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos

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16 September 2008

Australia's first licences allowing the creation of cloned embryos for the derivation of human embryonic stem cell lines were issued today by the Embryo Research Licensing Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Sydney IVF Limited has been granted three licences to derive human embryonic stem cell lines from embryos created using Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) techniques and clinically unusable human eggs.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a technique in which DNA from the nucleus of an unfertilised egg is removed and replaced with the nucleus of an adult cell such as a skin cell.  The technique can be used to create cloned embryos in order to derive embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes (therapeutic cloning).  SCNT can also be used for reproductive cloning, however this is illegal in Australia and can not be carried out under any circumstances.

The use of excess IVF embryos and the creation and use of other embryos in research is restricted by law through national legislation.  The Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 and the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 establish a strong regulatory framework and prohibit human cloning for reproductive purposes and a range of other unacceptable practices.