April 17, 2024

Using human embryos to test drugs will save animal lives

The Scottish scientist who created Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal, Ian Wilmut, says that using embryonic stem cells to test drugs is more ethical and effective than using animals. The lives of thousands of animals could be saved, he said in Glasgow.

Dr Wilmut is doing research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease which causes progressive paralysis. “Using animals to test drugs for ALS costs tens of thousands of pounds and the effects cannot be seen for a long time. If we develop a laboratory test, in a period of days you could test many more drugs for far less money and not use animals at all,” he said. He dismissed the notion of doing this research with adult stem cells which are unencumbered by ethical controversy. “So far, no scientist has been able to specifically turn any adult stem cell population into good populations of motor-neuron cells,” he observed.