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Australia World’s First to Issue License for Human Embryo Cloning

Here is one of the few times Australia has made headlines back in the US for something other then crocodile and shark attacks:

The Australian government has issued its first license allowing scientists to create cloned human embryos to try and obtain embryonic stem cells.

The in vitro-fertilization firm Sydney IVF was granted the license and reportedly has access to 7,200 human eggs for its research.

If the firm is successful it would be a world first, the Australian government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which granted the license, said on Wednesday.

Scientists in other countries have made stem cells they believe are similar to embryonic cells using a variety of techniques, but none have been able to extract embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos.

An Australian ban on the research, known as therapeutic cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer, was lifted in December 2006 after a rare conscience vote in the national parliament.

But the use of excess IVF embryos and the creation and use of other embryos in research is restricted by law through national legislation. Human cloning for reproductive purposes is banned.  [Reuters]

The whole stem cell issue seems like a bit of a slippery slope, but if done ride it also seems to have a lot of promise to help sick people.  It will be interesting to watch how things turn out in Australia in regards to this human embryo cloning.