This is the first time in the UK that such a license has been granted. It could help scientists understand how diseases develop and may lead to the development of new treatments for a range of diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and diabetes.
The decision puts the UK at the forefront of global research in this very promising area of medicine and confirms North East England's status as one of the world's emerging centers for biomedical research.
The Newcastle Human Embryonic Stem Cell Group, part of the government sponsored Life Knowledge Park(LKP), is now launching a funding appeal to accelerate research. It is seeking private sector partners to help the UK stay ahead of international competition.
The group was established two years ago, in a joint venture involving the NHS, Newcastle University and the Center for Life with funding from the Departments of Health and Trade and Industry and from the regional development Agency, One NorthEast. Its remit is to explore the potential offered by stem cells to understand and develop possible new therapies for many serious and debilitating diseases.
In early 2003 it became one of the first two groups in the UK to derive human ES (embryonic stem) cells from spare IVF embryos. Two members of the group, Professor Alison Murdoch of the Newcastle NHS Fertility Centerand Dr. Miodrag Stojkovic, a Reader in Stem Cell Biology and Embryology at Newcastle University, applied to the Human Embryology and Fertilization Authority (HFEA) for the license to undertake 'somatic cell nuclear transfer', as it is known scientifically, in February 2004.