LONDON, England (CNN) -- The creator of Dolly the sheep has been granted a license to clone human embryos for medical research, authorities in London have announced.
Professor Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh and a team from King's College, London plan to clone embryos to study motor neuron disease.
Consent for the cloning to treat the incurable muscle-wasting condition was granted by Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
It is the second such license approved since Britain became the first country to legalize research cloning in 2001.
The first license was granted in August to a team at Newcastle University, northern England, which hopes to use cloning to create insulin-producing cells that could be transplanted into diabetics.
Such work, called therapeutic cloning because it does not result in a baby, is opposed by anti-abortion groups and other biological conservatives because researchers must destroy human embryos to harvest the cells.
The new license will allow researchers at the Roslin Institute to study motor neuron disease, in particular those patients whose condition cannot be linked to genes already identified as causing the disease, the HFEA said.
While embryonic stem cells would not be used to correct the disease, the study of these cells could help develop future treatments, the HFEA said.
Angela McNab, chief executive, said in a statement: "The HFEA's role is to ensure research on human embryos is only carried out when it is viewed as necessary under strictly defined guidelines, outlined in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990).
"We recognize that motor neuron disease is a serious congenital condition. Following careful review of the medical, scientific, legal and ethical aspects of this application, we felt it was appropriate to grant the Roslin Institute a one-year license for this research into the disease."
Wilmut and motor neuron expert Christopher Shaw of the Institute of Psychiatry in London plan to combine eggs donated by women with skin cells donated by patients with motor neuron disease whose condition cannot be linked to genes already known to cause the disease.
The genetic material, or nucleus, is removed from the egg and replaced with the genetic material of the donated skin cell.
The egg is activated and allowed to grow into a 5- to 6-day-old embryo. Cells from the embryo are then taken out to develop embryonic stem cells.
The mechanism behind motor neuron disease is poorly understood because the nerves are inaccessible in the brain and central nervous system and cannot be removed from patients.