Ian Wilmut, best known as the scientist who led the research team that cloned Dolly the sheep in the 1990s, used to be a fan of cloning and human embryonic stem-cell research (hESCR) — but these days, he’s singing a different tune.
In a Nov. 29 speech in California, Wilmut urged fellow scientists to invest their time on nonembryonic forms of stem-cell research — especially direct reprogramming, also known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) research. Under this method — which is far less expensive than human cloning — a person’s own skin cells are reprogrammed to become an embryonic-like cell. No embryos are created or destroyed in the process
“If they can do that with a patient’s own cells, that would be tremendous in the sense that you could create any type of tissue you needed in the body for regenerative medicine,” noted Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. “It would be your genetic makeup, so there’d be no tissue rejection, no creation of an embryo. If it works out, 10 years down the line your own body might be a pharmacy in the sense that you could use one part that’s healthy to rebuild another part that isn’t.”
The fact that Wilmut has changed his tune doesn’t mean other research scientists necessarily will, though, Smith said — so the need for a worldwide ban on human cloning, rather than an annually renewed amendment to Congressional funding bills, remains.
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