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Dolly lab to study human disease

23 February 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 246

Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, who cloned Dolly the sheep, have confirmed their intention to apply for a license to derive cloned human embryo stem cells. Writing in New Scientist magazine last week, team leader Ian Wilmut says that he wants to clone cells from a patient with motor neuron disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease). He says this will allow scientists to better understand the causes of the condition, and perhaps provide an opportunity to test new therapies.

ALS is a progressive, incurable paralysis, caused by gradual damage to motor neurons: nerve cells in the brain and spine. Because of their location, it is impossible to study these cells to pinpoint the causes of ALS, says Wilmut, which is where cloning technology could help. Using SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer ), the technique used to clone Dolly the sheep, scientists could grow motor neuron cells from ALS patients to study in the laboratory.

Wilmut also said 'therapeutic cloning' - the use of SCNT to create genetically-matched cell therapies for a range of diseases - might also be possible one day. Another application of the technology, which he described as 'the most radical' could be to clone an embryo affected by genetic disease, so that the faulty gene could be corrected in the cloned version. Such a child would be a human clone, he said, but of a new individual, not one of its parents.

Wilmut's comments follow the recent announcement by a team of South Korean scientists, that they have managed to derive stem cells from a cloned human embryo. Their success has reignited debate over the regulation of human reproductive cloning, and Wilmut's article has attracted criticism. Donald Bruce, of the Church of Scotland, said it was 'highly controversial' to advocate the use of cloned human embryos in research, adding that he was 'shocked at the naivete of the suggestion to clone babies in the present climate of world opinion'.

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Dolly scientist backs baby cloning
BBC News Online |  18 February 2004
'Dolly' scientist backs selective human cloning
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The moral imperative for human cloning
New Scientist |  21 February 2004
16 October 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
US researchers have used human stem cells to lessen the symptoms of motor neurone disease in rats bred to have symptoms of the condition. The scientists, based at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, showed that injecting fetal nerve stem cells into the spines of rats with amytrophic...
5 June 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The UK scientist who lead the team responsible for creating Dolly the sheep has suggested using cloning technology to eradicate disease genes in early human embryos. In a new book, currently being serialised in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Professor Ian Wilmut says that it would be...
23 April 2006 - by BioNews 
A working group of the Church of Scotland has issued a report on a project it undertook to revisit the clinical, theological and ethical issues surrounding embryonic (ES) stem cell research. The group's report recommends that the Church of Scotland alters its current policy on the scientific technique. The Society...
9 February 2005 - by BioNews 
The scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep has been given permission to use the same technique to clone human embryos for medical research into stem cells. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has granted a licence to the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh to use the cell nucleus replacement (CNR...
3 February 2005 - by BioNews 
US researchers have managed to grow motor neurons, using human embryonic stem (ES) cells, in the laboratory for the first time. The scientists, based at the University of Wisconsin, say their achievement could help research into motor neurone disease. It may eventually be possible to treat the condition using transplants...
12 February 2004 - by BioNews 
Scientists in South Korea have extracted and grown stem cells from cloned, early human embryos, a breakthrough in 'therapeutic cloning' research. Using a modified version of the technique used to clone Dolly the sheep, the team, based at the Seoul National University, created 30 cloned human embryos. The researchers extracted...
28 April 2003 - by BioNews 
Dr Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists responsible for the cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996 and now head of a new department of gene expression and development at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, has announced plans to clone a human embryo for research purposes. Wilmut, who says that he will...
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