'Dolly' Scientist: Make Human Stem Cells From Animal Eggs

Stem cells from human embryos are seen as the future of medicine, but a major ethical question surrounds the research: Should federally funded scientists be allowed to extract the cells from embryos, a process which destroys them? Current U.S. laws clearly say “no.”

Ian Wilmut, who made history when he cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, is now calling on scientists to inject human DNA into animal egg cells as a workaround to ethical and legal roadblocks. His commentary appears in Nature Reports Stem Cells, an online stem cell resource created by the journal Nature.

Wilmut proposes that scientists take a DNA-packed nucleus from a diseased person’s cell, then slip it into an animal egg from which the nucleus has been removed. About one times out of eight, a clump of human embryonic stem cells should grow. Once the clump is large enough, medical researchers could test experimental drugs on the cells without destroying a single human embryo.

Kevin Eggan, an embryonic stem cell researcher at Harvard University, said that Wilmut is onto something important. “I think that this is critical set of experiments that should go forward,” he told LiveScience.