Scientists who cloned Dolly the Sheep developing coronavirus treatment

Scientists who cloned Dolly the Sheep say new coronavirus treatment using immune cells from young healthy volunteers could beat disease

  • TC Biopharm are based in Glasgow, and have used the therapy to treat cancer
  • They are hopeful that the therapy will be available to the NHS by July
  • Doctor says the challenge is in developing something that attacks infected cells
  • Dolly was created in 1996, with scientists still studying the case to this day
  • She died in 2003, and herself suffered from a virus-induced lung disease

The scientists responsible for cloning Dolly the Sheep are reportedly in talks with the Government on a potential treatment for Covid-19 using immune cells from young and healthy volunteers.

Researchers from TC Biopharm near Glasgow have used the new therapy – which uses immunity-building cell transfusions – to successfully treat cancer.

The Daily Telegraph reported they are now hoping it will also work against the coronavirus, and are in talks with the Government to trial the therapy for that purpose.

It is hoped the therapy will be available in NHS hospitals by July.

Dolly the sheep pictured in 2002. Her creation has been fundamental to stem cell research and ‘opened up previously unimaginable possibilities’ in biology and medicine, scientists have said

Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996 and revealed to the world in 1997. Her case is still studied by scientists over 20 years since

Dr Brian Kelly, senior strategic medical adviser to TC Biopharm, told the paper: ‘One of the key challenges of fighting viral infection is to develop something that is going to attack the infected cells and not the normal cells.

Dolly the sheep was born at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh in July 1996, living for 14 years before dying on February 14, 2003. 

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

She was created using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer.  

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

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. 

Her case has continued to inspire research over 20 years after she was revealed to the world. 

‘So the solution that we came up with was to look at the body’s natural defences to viral infection.

‘There is a very small subset of gamma delta T-cells which are the first line of defence in viral infection. 

‘In patients who have successfully fought a viral infection, they have expanded their own immune system and that persists after that to stop them becoming infected again.’

The donor T-cells differ from normal immune cells as they do not identify invaders in the body based on alien protrusions on the surface of cells, but by detecting the unusual metabolism of viruses.

When the donor cells do detect a virus, they begin to destroy while also signalling it to the rest of the immune system as an alien intrusion requiring eradication.

Dr Kelly said with this approach, even if the virus mutated and returned to a body, the infusion exercise could be repeated and would still work.

Doctors can infuse the cells with a patient in a one-off, hour-long treatment, with TC Biopharm already holding a license for carrying out such treatments.

TC Biopharm was founded in Edinburgh in 1996 by Angela Scott, who was part of the team who cloned Dolly the Sheep. Dolly herself suffered from a virus-induced lung disease.

Since her death in 2003, Dolly has been on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Although she died 14 years ago, four identical clones of her are still living 

Dr Brian Kelly, senior strategic medical adviser to TC Biopharm, has said the key challenge of fighting viral infection is to develop something that is going to attack the infected cells

Dolly the Sheep has continued to inspire scientific research over 20 years after she was revealed to the world in 1997, having been born in 1996.

 Her creation has been fundamental to stem cell research and ‘opened up previously unimaginable possibilities’ in biology and medicine, scientists have previously said.

She was named after Dolly Parton, the curvaceous country & western singer, because the adult cell used had been from a mammary gland.

He birth triggered furious debate about the ethics of cloning – a row which deepened with claims of human cloning. 

Dolly was somewhat of a medical marvel as the only surviving lamb from 277 cloning attempts and was created from an udder cell taken from a six-year-old Finn Dorset sheep. 

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

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 bred normally on two occasions with a Welsh mountain ram called David, and gave birth to four lambs.

She suffered from arthritis and a virus-induced lung disease and died on February 14, 2003. 

How can immune cell treatment work against the coronavirus?

Researchers from TC Biopharm, a Glaswegian cancer treatment firm, say that the new therapy uses immunity-building cell transfusions that could also work against the coronavirus.

Scientists aim to develop something that will attack cells that have been infected with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The solution looks to the body’s natural defenses, where there is a ‘small subset of gamma delta T-cells’ which act as the body’s first line of defence in the case of a viral infection. 

By taking donor cells from patients who have successfully fought of the viral infection, where their immune system has expanded to prevent infection again, doctors can infuse these cells in others to boost immunity.

T-cells differ from normal immune cells because they identify invaders in the body by detecting the unusual metabolism of the virus, as opposed to identifying alien protrusions on the surface of cells.

There have now been over 38,000 cases of the coronavirus in the UK, with over 3,600 dead. The global scientific community is in a desperate search for a treatment and vaccine for the virus

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