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Cloning still holds hope for motor neurone disease

6th July 2006

The potential to develop treatments for conditions like motor neurone disease in the UK is being wasted, a scientist has said.

Professor Ian Wilmut, who was on the team that created Dolly the sheep, has told the BBC that he is "disappointed" at the demise in pioneering cloning work using animals.

He said that the UK has failed to capitalise on its home-grown technology.

The nuclear transfer technique that was used to produce Dolly has many potential applications, but Professor Wilmut himself is using the technology to look at changes in cell behaviour caused by motor neurone disease.

He told the BBC that cloning could be very beneficial to the production of treatments for the disease:

"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.

He defended cloning techniques from the controversy that has surrounded them, saying that the fears that underlay such objections have not been realised over the intervening decade.

Dolly the sheep's preserved remains are on show at the Edinburgh Royal Museum.