The team that cloned Dolly the sheep have been granted the UK’s first stem cell research licence allowing the creation of human embryos from unfertilised eggs.
This process is called parthenogenesis – Greek for “virgin birth” – and occurs naturally in some reptiles and insects. It allows females to reproduce without males, as their eggs are prompted to develop into embryos without being fertilised by sperm.
Ian Wilmut and colleagues at the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, will artificially stimulate human egg cells to undergo parthenogenesis and then take stem cells from the resulting embryos. Their aim is to develop the technology needed to maintain cell lines of human embryonic stem cells in the laboratory.