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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 December 2007, 00:01 GMT
Dolly the sheep pioneer knighted
Ian Wilmut
Sir Ian is based at the University of Edinburgh
Professor Ian Wilmut, who led the team which created Dolly the sheep through genetic cloning, has been knighted.

Other medics on the New Year Honours list include genome researcher Professor John Bell and Cancer Research UK's Professor Alexander Markham.

Robert Naylor, chief executive of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, also becomes a Sir.

And Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of mental health charity Sane, is made a CBE.

The Order of the Bath goes to Debby Reynolds, the government's former chief vet, who led efforts to deal with this year's outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and avian flu.

Sir Ian said: "I am naturally delighted and excited by this award and accept it on behalf of the team in the new Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and previously at the Roslin Institute.

"It also recognises the importance of biomedical research to develop new treatments in regenerative medicine, which hold great hope for the future."

Dolly the sheep was the world's first mammal cloned from the DNA of an adult cell and was unveiled to the public in 1997.

Dolly the sheep
Dolly the sheep was unveiled to the world in 1997

Sir Ian and his team fused the genetic information from an adult sheep cell nucleus with an egg cell to form an embryo that developed into a genetically identical copy of the original adult.

Dolly died in 2003. Her stuffed remains are on show at Edinburgh's Royal Museum.

Controversy

Supporters of cloning say it could offer numerous benefits in the future.

Therapeutic cloning might create perfect-match organs for transplant or stem cells to fight degenerative human conditions like Alzheimer's disease, they argue.

But opponents say any rewards cloning may offer are overshadowed by moral unease and fears scientists are "playing God".

And pro-life groups oppose the use of embryonic cells.

Sir Ian recently abandoned the cloning of human embryos in stem cell research, but said it was a decision based on science rather than ethics.

He is now embracing a technique developed by Professor Shinya Yamanaka, of Kyoto University, Japan, that involves genetically modifying adult cells to make them almost as flexible as stem cells, which he believes has far more potential.

Sir Ian believes that within five years the new technique could provide a better and ethically more acceptable alternative to cloning embryos for medical research.



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