April 24, 2024

Dolly’s creator dismisses embryonic stem cells

Ian Wilmut says that iPS cells are far better

Ian WilmutThe scientist who created the cloned sheep Dolly, the first cloned mammal, says that cloned embryos are no longer needed for medical advances now that induced pluripotent stem cells have been discovered. Ian Wilmut, who abandoned research on human embryonic stem cells more than a year ago, is still a world leader in regenerative medicine. He is currently the head of reproductive biology at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh. He told the French website Genethique this month that: "If science can offer faster, more interesting and more efficient means, I want to use them."

Although many scientists argue that hESCs are needed to study the genetic basis of disease, Wilmut disagrees:

"People do not yet realize that studying inherited diseases on cells obtained by reprogramming is much easier and faster than getting human embryonic stem cells by cloning. The iPS technique to obtain stem cells is now the most efficient technique for researchers, in particular for research on inherited diseases."

A similar argument is constantly being advanced for the use of hESCs for drug research. Again, Wilmut takes a different tack:

"iPS cells are more useful than embryonic cells for this research because, if you take reprogrammed cells from a patient who has an inherited disease you want to study, the advantage is that these cells already carry the characteristics of that person. You do not have to introduce a genetic error. There are many inherited diseases for which we do not yet understand the molecular basis."

Wilmut’s comments appear to support claims by opponents of embryo research that they are not needed to get the cures for dread diseases which have been touted in the media. In particular, they undermine President Obama’s recent move to loosen restriction on hESC funding. ~ Genethique, May; translation by Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research