Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly, opens up about his Parkinson’s Disease

Ian Wilmut
Ian Wilmut
Professor, Sir Ian Wilmut
Professor Ian Wilmut

One of the most famous living biological scientists, Sir Ian Wilmut, just announced that he has Parkinson’s Disease. I wish him the best in dealing with this illness.

Wilmut is very well-known for having cloned the first mammal, Dolly the Sheep. This work followed on the earlier breakthrough by Sir John Gurdon of cloning the first vertebrate with his work in frogs.

it just occurred to me: I’m not sure if the first cloned frog had a name!

Over the years there has been hope that the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technology that can be used to clone organisms like Dolly could potentially also be used to make personalized human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines for patients that might prove helpful in addressing a number of diseases including Parkinson’s Disease. IPS cells also bring much hope for Parkinson’s as well.

Of his Parkinson’s Disease, Wilmut seems to have a great attitude and has offered to help advance research in that area in any way he can:

“Speaking on World Parkinson’s Day, Sir Ian Wilmut, from Edinburgh, revealed that he was “happy to act as a guinea pig and either donate tissue or try new treatments” after doctors detected the disease four months ago.

The 73-year-old told The Times that he will be announced as the patron of a research programme set up to enable trials to be carried out of a new generation of therapies that aim to slow the progression of the disease.”

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological, motor systems disorder resulting from the loss of most or all of a specific kind of brain cell type called dopaminergic neurons. Other prominent figures who have Parkinson’s include Michael J. Fox and Neil Diamond.

Looking ahead, Wilmut was cautious in what he said to the media:

“Asked if he was hopeful of a cure in his lifetime, he said: “You always hope, but not too much.”

“I’d suggest you come back and ask me in six or seven years.”

There is reason for hope in coming years.

Parkinson’s disease and stem cell researcher Jeanne Loring received the Niche’s Stem Cell Person of the Year Award in 2015 and together we decided that the $2,000 Prize would be donated to Summit for Stem Cell, a patient-researcher group dedicated to developing a stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s.

I’m hopeful in coming decades we will get there. Innovative research by scientists such as JeanneLorenz StuderJun Takahashi,  Roger Barkerand Malin Parmar as well as others boost my hopes!

3 Comments


  1. Thx Paul for the post. Not great news for Ian but he seems from the interview to have put things in perspective about it considering and is also doing something on the push back with his v. positive Scottish translational research initiative (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-43718506 – official launch this Friday).

    I also extend my very best to him in his years ahead dealing with this scourge of this disease. As he said 10 to 15 years isn’t such an imminent demise and things could have been worse with a different diagnosis.

    Having said that I believe there is a good chance that within the course of his disease progression there will be new functionally relevant treatment options from the cell & gene therapy space approved for use.

    As a scientist he spoke volumes to his character on his public disclosure of his condition and the research effort he’s backing moving forward.

    The Wester Ross Salmon he ordered at J Sheekey in Covent Garden was extraordinary, as is his country and legacy.

    Agree there should have been three recipients.

    Cheers

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