Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease could be treated using research gained from the creation of Dolly the sheep.
Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the team which created the world’s first cloned mammal from an adult cell, has revealed that his experiment is helping develop drug treatments for inherited conditions.
Researchers are now using the information gained from the creation of Dolly to “search hard” for possible treatments of a number of degenerative illnesses.
The scientist said this would be a major advance - but it would not likely be widely available for at least a decade. Professor Wilmut will be one of the keynote speakers at a major conference held in London this week which discusses the latest developments in embryo research and genome editing.
He said that while cloning itself had only had limited application, the success of Dolly’s creation had altered the way biologists think “radically and swiftly”.
Until then it had been thought that once a cell had become specialised for a particular function - such as skin - it could not be changed.
But the birth of Dolly 20 years ago at Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute demonstrated it was possible to “turn the clock back” and make a “differentiated” cell behave as if it was a recently fertilised egg.
Prof Wilmut said these could be key to finding treatments for inherited conditions.