Leader comment: Parkinson’s hope that was born with Dolly the sheep

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut and Dolly. Photo: Roslin Institute
Professor Sir Ian Wilmut and Dolly. Photo: Roslin Institute
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The creation of Dolly the sheep – the world’s first clone of an adult mammal – was a stunning piece of science.

While some struggled to see past the scare stories following its birth in 1996, scientists realised the incredible potential to revolutionise medicine, as damaged or lost tissues could theoretically be regenerated by reprogramming other cells from the patient.

If an adult cell could be turned into an entire healthy animal, it could also be used to create heart and liver tissue, even neurons in the brain.

When Dolly was born, Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the researchers, may not have thought he would later develop one of the diseases, Parkinson’s, which might be treatable in this way.

READ MORE: Dolly the sheep scientist diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease

The first clinical trials of ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ to treat Parkinson’s are due to get underway in Japan this year, while Edinburgh and Dundee universities are also launching a joint research project to find ways to slow down its progression.

It would be a wonderful irony for Professor Wilmut if that work two decades ago was to result in a treatment that could help him.

And for countless other sufferers, it might well seem like a miracle.

READ MORE: Wha’s like us … Professor Ian Wilmut