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Genetic therapy may fail in humans


DEVELOPING new disease cures from cloning technology will be much harder than we think, the co-creator of Dolly the sheep said yesterday. Professor Ian Wilmut said that while Dolly had stimulated ideas for cell therapy, there was no guarantee that these would work in humans.

"It could easily be five to 10 years before we get the first treatments and 20 to 50 years before we get the full range going through," he said.

Speaking in advance of an international conference in Edinburgh on the implications of the mapping of the human genome, he said cloning had been successful in five species but it had failed in six, including the rhesus monkey, the closest to humans.

"Our routine method of cloning does not work in a mouse and there are enormous differences between species. We should not assume that any method we know could be replicated in humans. "We actually know very little about cloning. It is very much at the let's-try-it-and-see empirical stage. Getting genetic information into one egg is the easy bit. Getting it to function normally is much more difficult," he said.

As for applying this in developing treatments, he added: "We know almost nothing about it." Nevertheless, Professor Wilmut said the biggest potential impact from Dolly was to focus on developing treatments for diseases like Parkinson's, Huntingdon's, and diabetes. He said he strongly supported a specific legal ban on human cloning.

Earlier, Peter Goodfellow, senior vice-president for discovery research at Glaxo SmithKline, said the unravelling of the human genome would help define diseases more precisely, but the long-term impact was unclear.

-April 19th

-- Swissrose (, April 19, 2001

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