Rats and primates will soon join sheep, mice, pigs, cats and horses on the ever-growing list of mammals cloned from adult cells, according to the creator of Dolly the cloned sheep. Speaking at the first of a series of lectures at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh last week, Ian Wilmut said that he expected rats and monkeys would be cloned in the next two years.
Dolly the sheep was born at the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, in 1996. She was created using a technique called SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer ), a procedure that Wilmut acknowledged is inefficient, and in need of improvements. During his talk on the future of cloning, Wilmut also expressed relief that recent claims of cloned humans were now regarded as 'publicity-seeking nonsense'. He said that if people had believed the claims, made by groups such as the cult-based company Clonaid, then the greater restrictions might have been placed on other research on human embryos. Scientists are hoping to use stem cells taken from early human embryos to develop new therapies for a range of diseases.
Meanwhile, Australian biotech firm Stem Cell Sciences (SCS) is set to move to Scotland to continue its research into stem cell therapies, reports the Scotsman newspaper. The move was welcomed by Ken Snowden, Scottish Enterprise's director of biotechnology, who said that the regulatory environment in Scotland 'makes it easier to carry out this type of research'. Simon Best, the chief executive of biotech company Ardana Bioscience said that 'stem cells is an area where Scotland is arguably the most important cluster in the world'.
Embryo stem cells, which are capable of generating a wide range of different body tissues, could provide new treatments for illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease. Scientists from several countries, including the US and the UK, have now succeeded in growing these 'master' cells in the laboratory. Last week, researchers in Iran announced they have also succeeded in establishing an embryonic stem cell line, using embryos left over from IVF treatment.