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Dolly creator to ask women to donate eggs

IANS | May 23, 2005

London, May 23 : The scientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep is to ask Scottish women volunteers to donate their eggs for stem cell research. Professor Ian Wilmut, from the Roslin Institute (Edinburgh), Midlothian, said he would also join forces with South Korean researchers who last week announced they had achieved a major breakthrough in growing stem cells cloned from patients.
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Professor Wilmut is aiming to grow stem cells from Scotland's first cloned human embryo by the end of the year, reports the Scotsman.

Roslin Institute's unprecedented deal with the South Korean researchers will see two of the world's top cloning experts - Wilmut and Professor Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University - working together to find new treatments for diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Motor Neurone Disease.

As part of the collaboration, Wilmut is to apply to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for permission to collect fresh unfertilised eggs from women volunteers.

In January he was granted Britain's second licence to create cloned embryos from discarded eggs, or oocytes, left over from In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) therapy.

However, research announced last week showed IVF eggs, which are usually frozen after being removed from the woman, are unsuitable for producing cloned embryos.

Wilmut is seeking HFEA permission to collect fresh eggs from women volunteers.

"We are very unlikely to be successful with IVF eggs," said Wilmut. "We will be seeking a change to the licence to allow us to take the approach of seeking donations.

"This will allow us to obtain fresh oocytes and we hope to have the first cell lines for research by the end of the year.

"The question that has to be asked is whether it is appropriate to ask women who have had children to donate oocytes for this purpose. Will a number of women come forward? I think a number will."

Wilmut is hoping to produce cloned embryos by replacing genetic
material from unfertilised eggs with genes from patients suffering from Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

By studying stem cells collected from the cloned embryos, which will not be allowed to grow beyond 14 days, he hopes to unravel what causes the devastating degenerative condition.

Researchers will be able to look for the malfunctions in nerve cells that occur as they grow in patients with MND and develop new treatments for the disease.

Professor Woo Suk Hwang used genetic material from skin cells taken from 11 male and female patients to produce 11 separate stem cell 'lines'.

Wilmut has now agreed to form a joint research project with Hwang's better-funded group after meeting him in Korea last month.

He said: "We can now take advantage of the Korean experience to see what works and what does not, while sharing our techniques to differentiate the stem cells with them."

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