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The End of the Clone Wars? (Updated)

John on November 20, 2007 at 1:42 am

Big news in today’s Telegraph. The destruction of human embryos for medical experiments may be about to become a thing of the past:

The scientist who created Dolly the sheep, a breakthrough that provoked headlines around the world a decade ago, is to abandon the cloning technique he pioneered to create her.

Prof Ian Wilmut’s decision to turn his back on “therapeutic cloning”, just days after US researchers announced a breakthrough in the cloning of primates, will send shockwaves through the scientific establishment.


His announcement could mark the beginning of the end for therapeutic cloning, on which tens of millions of pounds have been spent worldwide over the past decade. “I decided a few weeks ago not to pursue nuclear transfer,” Prof Wilmut said.

Most of his motivation is practical but he admits the Japanese approach is also “easier to accept socially.”

Instead of using embryonic stem cells from human embryos, Professor Wilmut has decided to pursue technology developed in Japan:

His inspiration comes from the research by Prof Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, which suggests a way to create human embryo stem cells without the need for human eggs, which are in extremely short supply, and without the need to create and destroy human cloned embryos, which is bitterly opposed by the pro life movement.


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.”

Professor Wilmut is not alone in his assesment:

Britain’s new Nobel prize winner and pioneer of stem cell research, Sir Martin Evans of the Cardiff School of Biosciences, commented on the Japanese work: “This will be the long-term solution.”

The news that Prof Wilmut is to abandon cloning was welcomed by Josephine Quintavalle on behalf of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, which is against the use of human embryos in research.

“At last scientists are starting to see reason and we are going to have fact and reality, rather than hype. It could not come at a better time with the new Human Tissue and Embryos Bill having its second reading in the Lords on Monday. It is a gift to us all. We are at last going to see some common sense coming into the debate.”

The folks at Planned Parenthood, who are so obviously desperate to find a public silver lining to their ongoing destruction of nascent life, are going to be crying in their beer today. What I wouldn’t give to see that.

Update: AP at HotAir links to another story on the Japanese technique.

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Category: Pro-Life |

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