HFEA papers

Cloning people from embryos (reproductive cloning) is banned in the UK. However, the UK allows experimentation on embryos up to 14 days old, including both those created through IVF and through cloning or other artificial means. Through so-called 'therapeutic cloning' of embryos, it is hoped that one day it will be possible to produce personalised tissues. See GeneWatch Briefing No 32 for more details.

In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) considers applications to conduct research on embryos. Following peer review, an HFEA committee assesses the research application to determine whether the use or creation of embryos is necessary for the research purpose. Only a short paragraph about the application is made available to the public until after the a decision is made on the application when more information may be released

Two applications to produce cloned human embryos for research have now been approved. The first was granted in August 2004 to Newcastle University to understand embryo development and develop treatments for diseases such as diabetes and which has succeeded in producing cloned embryos. The second was granted in February 2005 to Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists who created Dolly the cloned sheep, at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, to study Motor Neuron Disease.

Creating cloned human embryos raises many questions including whether cloned humans may one day be produced as a result of the knowledge gained, how women's eggs will be obtained to produce personalised tissues if treatments are ever realised, and whether there are better ways of preventing and treating diseases. GeneWatch UK believes that society cannot make these difficult decisions unless the processes involved are open and inclusive.

GeneWatch UK has gained access to the first two UK applications to create cloned human embryos by making formal information requests to the HFEA. These documents are available by clicking the links on the right hand side of this page.

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