Prince of Wales Hospital diabetes transplant unit is among the first in Australia to apply for a licence to use the new technology. The first big target for embryonic stem cell research will be a cure for diabetes, with a top researcher in NSW predicting major progress within four years.
A Legislation has been passed by the Federal Parliament this week that overturns the ban on therapeutic cloning, which had paved the way for sceintists to enter yet another new field of research for which the bill has been passed and is expected to receive royal assent within a fortnight.
'Type 1 diabetes is the first port of call for the research. Once we have the cells in the petri dish, we can see what regulates the disease, how we can understand the disease process and how we can go through drug discovery. We can do it in the petri dish, rather than in human or animal tests,' - said Dr Sidhu.
Embryonic stem cells have the potential to become any kind of tissue, offering hope they could be used to treat illnesses as diverse as diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, stroke, spinal cord injuries and burns.
'We all have a basic understanding of (diabetes) processes. What I foresee with this technology is that we'll start to get some outcomes within three to four years,' Dr Sidhu said.
Professor Peter Schofield, a neuroscientist and a member on the Lockhart committee which recommended therapeutic cloning be adopted, said: 'Diseases and illnesses that have a focal cause would be the first to see results.'