Scientist who created Dolly the sheep dies aged 79: Professor Sir Ian Wilmut passes away five years after revealing Parkinson’s diagnosis – the condition the cloned animal offered hope of curing

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, the scientist who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep, has died aged 79.

Described as a ‘a titan of the scientific world’, the researcher’s death comes five years after he revealed he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease — the condition Dolly offered hope of finding a cure for.

She was the first mammal ever to be cloned from an adult cell.

When Professor Wilmut unveiled the sheep in 1997 it paved the way for potential stem-cell treatments to tackle conditions such as Parkinson’s, a degenerative disease which affects more than 150,000 people in the UK. 

Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Sir Ian Wilmut. 

‘A titan of the scientific world’: Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, the scientist who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep, has died aged 79. He is pictured with Dolly in 1997

‘He was a titan of the scientific world, leading the Roslin Institute team who cloned Dolly the sheep – the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell – which transformed scientific thinking at the time. 

‘This breakthrough continues to fuel many of the advances that have been made in the field of regenerative medicine that we see today.

‘Our thoughts are with Ian’s family at this time.’

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Dolly was the only surviving lamb from 277 cloning attempts and was created from a mammary cell taken from a six-year-old Finn Dorset sheep.

She was created in 1996 at a laboratory in Edinburgh using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). 

The pioneering technique involved transferring the nucleus of an adult cell into an unfertilised egg cell whose own nucleus had been removed.

Dolly the sheep made history 20 years ago after being cloned at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. Pictured is Dolly in 2002

An electric shock stimulated the hybrid cell to begin dividing and generate an embryo, which was then implanted into the womb of a surrogate mother.

Dolly was the first successfully produced clone from a cell taken from an adult mammal.

Dolly’s creation showed that genes in the nucleus of a mature cell are still able to revert back to an embryonic totipotent state – meaning the cell can divide to produce all of the difference cells in an animal.