The Scottish institute that cloned Dolly the sheep wants to clone human embryos to study motor neurone disease.
The Institute has applied to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority under the terms of legislation passed in 2001 that allows therapeutic cloning for research.
Professor Ian Wilmut of The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh has stressed that his team has no aspirations of cloning human embryos. He also stated that all embryos would be destroyed after research had been completed
Wilmut said "Because at this early stage the embryo does not have that key human characteristic of being aware, to me it would be immoral not to take this opportunity to study diseases,".
Motor neurone disease is caused by the death of cells that control movement in the brain and spinal cord.
The researchers intend to extract DNA from a motor neurone disease sufferer and implant it into a human egg. The embryo would then grow, and scientists would remove cells to study them to gain a better knowledge of the diseases development.
Dolly the sheep became famous as the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, but was put down in February last year after experiencing progressive lung disease.