Monday, November 19, 2007

Ian Wilmut is done with human cloning

The UK's Telegraph reports on how the creator of Dolly the sheep has given up on human "therapeutic cloning" (attempting to create cloned human embryos and remove their stem cells) because the process of creating pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming adult cells (no eggs or embryos needed) is more practical.
This approach, he says, represents, the future for stem cell research, rather than the nuclear transfer method that his large team used more than a decade ago at the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, to create Dolly....

Cloning is still too wasteful of precious human eggs, which are in great demand for fertility treatments, to consider for creating embryonic stem cells. "It is a nice success but a bit limited," commented Prof Wilmut. "Given the low efficiency, you wonder just how long nuclear transfer will have a useful life."

Nor is it clear, he said, why the Oregon team was successful, which will hamper attempts to improve their methods. Instead, Prof Wilmut is backing direct reprogramming or "de-differentiation", the embryo free route pursued by Prof Yamanaka, which he finds "100 times more interesting."

"The odds are that by the time we make nuclear transfer work in humans, direct reprogramming will work too.

I am anticipating that before too long we will be able to use the Yamanaka approach to achieve the same, without making human embryos. I have no doubt that in the long term, direct reprogramming will be more productive, though we can't be sure exactly when, next year or five years into the future."
Can you hear that? That's the death bell is ringing for human cloning for research. How soon before other researchers start catching on and begin to admit that therapies via human cloning aren't at all practical?

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