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Britain Moves Toward Embryo Stem Cell Cloning

Aired August 16, 2000 - 1:13 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A stunning announcement today from British health officials. The government has taken steps toward allowing scientists to clone stem cells from human embryos. The cells would be used in research to help find cures for previously untreatable diseases.

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston has details now from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In London today, an announcement that could lead to revolution in medical science.

LIAM DONALDSON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: The stem cell research opens up a new medical frontier. It offers enormous potential for new treatment for chronic disease and injuries and the relief of human suffering.

ECCLESTON: Stem cells are cells taken from embryos that are less than two weeks old. They're like blank slates that can potentially be turned into virtually any tissue in the human body, basically creating a supply of spare tissue that might repair or prevent damages from diseases like Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, and Parkinson's. The cloning of these cells would increase the supply and presumably speed up scientific research.

DIANA BROCKWAY, PARKINSON'S SUFFERER: I think that it's the first positive move other than the medication side of things. I don't know whether it will help the medication, but the actual surgical side of things, I feel, holds out a real hope.

ECCLESTON: Embryonic cloning with echoes of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal, is raising fears about the ethical issues involved.

DR. HELEN WATT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SPOKESWOMAN: What's being recommended here is the very worst form of cloning which is cloning so as to kill the clone for the sake of its stem cells. What we'd be doing is deliberately creating human lives so as to destroy them.

ECCLESTON: In the face of such criticism, the government will outlaw the possibility of human cloning for reproductive reasons. Ensuring scientists are banned from possibly making a cloned baby. DONALDSON: Any question of cloning full human beings is totally out of the question, abhorrent and illegal and full safeguards will remain in place to prevent that.

ECCLESTON (on camera): While this controversial issue has a government stamp of approval, it still requires parliamentary debate, and that is expected to happen this autumn.

Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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