EDINBURGH, January 4, 2006 ( -Â Dr. Ian Wilmut, one of the world’s most prominent cloning and stem cell researchers and the creator of Dolly the cloned sheep, has suggested that researchers be allowed to use people with severe neurological disabilities as human lab rats in “high risk” embryonic stem cell research.

The UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), one of the world’s most permissive government overseers, granted a license to Wilmut in Feburary 2005 to use existing human embryos in cloning research. He told the BBC that he intended to create cloned human embryos with motor neurone disease (MND) in order to obtain their stem cells.

Dr. Wilmut, who was appointed this month as the first director of Edinburgh University’s new Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said that his proposal would of course be aimed at finding cures for such diseases as ALS, but not necessarily in the given human test subject himself. Wilmut claims that the strong desire of patients suffering from MND is enough reason to justify ignoring ethical standards in research.

“I’ve come across people who have neuro-degenerative disease who face a steady, slow decline and premature death, a very unpleasant situation. They would be only too keen to participate in trials,” he said.

International agreements on ethical use of human test subjects were developed and laid down after Nazi medical atrocities on concentration camp inmates were discovered after the Second World War. The Directives for Human Experimentation in the Nuremberg Code require that human test subjects can be used only after sufficient animal testing has been done and the positive outcome from the research can be found in no other way.

“The experiment,” the code says, “should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.” Such has not been the case with embryonic stem cell research.

Thus far embryonic stem cell research has yielded no cure or treatment that has not been more easily and safely obtained using adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, when used directly in therapeutic trials, have been found to produce tumours and sometimes bizarre and horrifying untreatable side effects.

Wilmut said, however, that such practices as animal testing and the standard ethics procedures for research slow things down too much. “If we wait until things are totally tested and analysed in animals, it will deny some people that treatment.”Â

“They should be allowed to use treatments which have not been properly tested because in their case the benefits may outweigh the risk. The sad fact is if we wait until all the tests have been done, some patients will have passed away,” he said.