In Great Britain, at the age of 79, biologist Ian Wilmut – the world’s leading specialist in cloning living cells – died. His most famous achievement was Dolly the sheep – the first animal grown from a single cell. His scientific work marked the beginning of large-scale research in the field of stem cells and the entire branch of biotechnology known as regenerative medicine.
Wilmut was born in 1944 in Scotland in a family of doctors. Since the 1960s, he has been engaged in embryology and reproduction. Since the beginning of the 1990s, he headed a group of scientists at the Plant Institute at the University of Edinburgh.
In 1996, scientists managed to clone a sheep from one cell, which they named Dolly. An artificially created embryo developed into an adult animal. Dolly lived for six years, gave birth to six healthy lambs, and was euthanized after she was diagnosed with joint disease and a viral lung infection. In 2007, several more sheep were cloned from the same biomaterials as Dolly to participate in research.
Ian Wilmut was categorically against the use of cloning technologies in relation to humans. But he believed that such research can and should help in growing new tissues and organs that will be used in transplantation for people with chronic diseases and in the treatment of genetic disorders.
Now the results of Wilmut’s research in the field of stem cells are used both in further scientific developments and in practical medicine – for example, in new technologies for cancer treatment.