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Human cloning may be acceptable to provide the cells required in the treatment of diseases, the creator of Dolly the sheep — the world’s first adult animal clone — said Wednesday.

“Although it has the potential to be a human, I don’t particularly think it is a human. If you have a very good reason to study it, to me that would be acceptable,” Ian Wilmut, 54, a biologist at the Roslin Institute in Scotland told a Tokyo press conference.

The announcement of the birth of Dolly, produced by Wilmut and his coworkers, stunned the world last year. Scientists until then had believed that a differentiated mammalian cell could not be coaxed to produce an entire organism.

Their achievement also intensified an already heated debate throughout the world, because in theory it is also possible to clone human beings. Wilmut said he is opposed to cloning people, while in Britain, the home of Dolly, it is already illegal to create human clones.

Wilmut noted, however, that he thinks it’s acceptable to make a new embryo from a patient’s cell in order to create new cells to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, AIDS and leukemia.

“Until it becomes possible to directly redifferentiate cells, the only way you could have a human cell would be to make an embryo first,” Wilmut said.

In Britain, people are now debating whether using cloned human embryos is ethical or not, he added.

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