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British scientistssaid to clone embryo

/ Source: The Associated Press

Scientists who were awarded Britain's first license for human cloning say they had succeeded in creating a cloned embryo for the first time in the country.

The Newcastle University scientists said Thursday they had successfully produced an early stage embryo cloned from a human cell using nuclear transfer.

Britain, which four years ago became the world's first country to license cloning to create stem cells, is aiming to join South Korea on the leading edge of the research, which many scientists believe may lead to new treatments for a range of diseases.

A team of South Korean scientists who last year were the first to clone a human embryo announced Thursday that they had dramatically sped up the creation of human embryonic stem cells, growing 11 new batches that for the first time were a genetic match for injured or sick patients.

The Newcastle researchers were granted a license in August by Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority.  Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly the sheep, was later granted a license earlier this year to clone embryos as part of his research into motor neuron disease.

The Newcastle researchers hope eventually to create insulin-producing cells that could be transplanted into diabetics.

Two of the team, Alison Murdoch and Dr. Miodrag Stojkovic, said they were "delighted" by the Koreans' progress.

The researchers are not using cloning to make babies. Instead, scientists create test-tube embryos to supply stem cells, the building blocks which give rise to every tissue in the body and which are a genetic match for a particular patient, preventing rejection by the immune system.

If scientists could harness the regenerative power of those stem cells, they might be able to repair damage from spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Parkinson's and other diseases.