LONDON (AFP) — A British scientist who led researchers who created Dolly the Sheep is to abandon cloning using embryos for a rival method which makes stem cells without them, the Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.
Professor Ian Wilmut, of Edinburgh University, gained celebrity but also attracted criticism from some religious groups and pro-life campaigners after being involved in the cloning of the first mammal from an adult cell in 1996.
But now he has decided against pursuing a licence to clone human embryos which he was awarded two years ago in favour of a method pioneered by Professor Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, Japan, who has managed to create stem cells from fragments of skin in mice without using embryos.
Yamanaka is now believed to have done the same with human cells, the paper reported.
"I decided a few weeks ago not to pursue nuclear transfer (the method by which Dolly the Sheep was cloned," Wilmut told the paper.
He added that the new concept was "easier to accept socially" as well as being "extremely exciting and astonishing".
"Before too long, we will be able to use the Yamanaka approach to achieve the same, without making embryos," he said.
Some scientists say that the overall success rate of the method used on Dolly the Sheep is too inefficient to be used in humans, particularly given the difficulties of obtaining eggs.
The United States has restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research, while President George W. Bush has vetoed a bill seeking to encourage it, saying it violated the sanctity of human life.
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