Dolly Sheep Cloning Scientist Upset British Animal Cloning Cut Back

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 5, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dolly Sheep Cloning Scientist Upset British Animal Cloning Cut Back Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 5, 2006

London, England ( — The scientist who was the leading member of the team that cloned Dolly the sheep is upset that Britain has had to cut back on more animal cloning because of cuts in agricultural research. Professor Ian Wilmut is upset that animal cloning hasn’t advanced even though the cloning of Dolly was a failure.

Dolly was cloned 10 years ago at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh and was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. She was a genetic replica of a six-year-old Finn Dorset lamb.

Wilmut told the BBC that England has failed to capitalize on the cloning research since then and he worries that other nations have taken up the baton and run with it.

"I think that it is very difficult for a small country like this to develop fully something which does have great international value, because once that’s recognized the science will move elsewhere," he said.

"And in a sense, that’s a compliment to the science: the technology was very important and is now being exploited commercially in Japan and the United States, all sorts of different countries," Wilmut told the BBC.

However, Dolly was condemned by many observers as a complete failure in cloning science.

Dolly was finally created after 300 failed attempts, resulting in miscarriages and malformed offspring. Ultimately, the "successful" result, Dolly, aged too rapidly and had to be euthanized.

Those poor results, and the number of dog embryos that had to be killed to create Snuppy in South Korea, concern pro-life advocates who say that any human cloning attempts will undoubtedly result in the death of hundreds, if not thousands, of unborn children.

Dr. Susan Meyer, of the research and campaign group GeneWatch UK, told the BBC that the promise of animal cloning is overstated. She called it "an inefficient technique."

"It goes wrong so often, we’ve gained a lot of knowledge about how cells differentiate and how organisms grow but we haven’t reached these expectations which were generated — the hype and the promise about personalized treatments," she explained.

"I think it is time to reflect a bit about whether we aren’t getting too carried away," she told the BBC.

Wilmut is using his own somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning technology to study the cell behavior of people with various diseases.

"If you produce an embryo which is, if you like, genetically identical to the person who has the disease, such as motor neurone disease, then that embryo and the cells you derive from it will have the characteristics of the person who has the illness," he explained.

"In that particular case, you could produce nerve cells that are equivalent to the person at the time when the symptoms first began to appear," Wilmut told the BBC. "You can’t get those cells in any other way at the present time."