Ian Wilmut was an embryologist who famously led the team that successfully cloned 'Dolly the sheep' in the mid-1990s. To achieve this technical feat, the team established a technique for transferring nuclei from adult sheep cells to unfertilised sheep eggs that had had their own nuclei removed. This was done in such a way that the first cloned adults were born.
He later conducted research on adult cells, using techniques that avoid the need to obtain embryonic cells. Ian's later work aimed to convert skin cells into stem cells that have the ability to form all tissues. By deriving these cell from donors who have inherited degenerative diseases, it is possible to gain new understanding of how diseases arise and search for medicines that are able to prevent the degeneration.
In the long run, stem cells will be used in new treatments. Ian was a strong advocate of a proposal to develop a global network of cell banks that would make it possible for anyone in the world to have access to such cell therapy.
Sir Ian Wilmut OBE FMedSci FRS died on 11 September 2023.
Interest and expertise
Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
Cell biology (incl molecular cell biology)
Anatomy, physiology and neurosciences
Animal (especially mammalian) and human physiology and anatomy (non-clinical)