"Dolly" Scientist Rejects Human Cloning
Special Report - November 21, 2007
In a decision that is sure to have a significant impact on the debate over destructive human embryonic stem cell research in the United States and abroad, the British scientist responsible for cloning Dolly the sheep has decided to abandon controversial “therapeutic cloning” methods in favor of ethical research using adult stem cells. The announcement by Professor Ian Wilmut of Edinburgh University was first reported in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph on November 16. Wilmut made international headlines in 1997 when he and a team of researchers successfully cloned the first mammal, a Finn Dorset sheep they named Dolly. The British government subsequently awarded Wilmut a grant to research human cloning, but Wilmut now intends to focus his energy on new adult stem cell research methods developed by researchers in Japan and the U.S. that he believes hold better promise than stem cells derived from human embryos. The Daily Telegraph described Wilmut’s shift as potentially marking “the beginning of the end for therapeutic cloning.”
Two articles describing the adult stem cell breakthrough referenced by Wilmut are to be published in the scientific journals Cell and Science. In the Cell article, researchers from Kyoto University in Japan demonstrated how to develop pluripotent stem cells (that can develop into most or all tissues in the human body) from adult human tissues that possesses the versatility of stem cells extracted from human embryos. In the paper, the researchers point out that embryonic stem cell research faces both ethical and practical hurdles, but that creating pluripotent stem cells from adult tissues “by direct reprogramming” can circumvent such issues. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison came to a similar conclusion in an article scheduled to appear in the journal Science.
Commenting on Wilmut’s decision to abandon embryonic stem cell research in favor of more ethical alternatives, Nikolas T. Nikas, president and general counsel of the Bioethics Defense Fund (BDF), said, “This positive development shows that the efforts of pro-life citizens and leaders have not been in vain.” Similarly, BDF senior counsel Dorinda Bordlee remarked that the new research methods in Japan and the U.S. have “the potential to bring all sides of the human cloning debate together in a common quest for aggressive yet ethical stem cell research.”
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