Australia allows therapeutic cloning
The Australian government has passed a bill that will allow scientists there to create cloned human embryos for research purposes. The previous 2002 ban fell despite opposition from Conservative Prime Minister John Howard and opposition Labor leader Kevin Rudd. Australia thus joins the small group of countries in which therapeutic cloning is permitted – such as Great Britain, South Korea and the USA.
In therapeutic cloning, researchers produce embryonic stem cells from egg cells whose nucleus they have replaced with the equivalent of a body cell. However, related methods are also permitted with the draft law: It is now also permitted to generate embryonic stem cells parthenogenetically – i.e. from unfertilized egg cells – or to transfer the cytoplasm surrounding the cell nucleus from one cell to another.
However, despite the change in legislation, a major expansion of stem cell research on the Fifth Continent is not to be expected, says Tejia Peura, an Australian stem cell researcher. As in other countries where therapeutic cloning is legal, Australia will ban the payment of egg donors, which will likely lead to limited availability of the appropriate tissue material. (ahu)