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Cloning Out of Control

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Clone (or clon) is a botanical term. The original Greek word means a sprout or twig and refers to the propagation of an entire plant group through asexual reproduction: each specimen is identical.

Clone (or clon) is a botanical term. The original Greek word means a sprout or twig and refers to the propagation of an entire plant group through asexual reproduction: each specimen is identical.
Some invertebrates, such as earthworms and starfish, can be cloned simply by cutting them in half. But scientists have long been enamoured with the possibility of cloning red-blooded vertebrates. The reality of that was proposed as a probability in 1938 by a German scientist and was carried out in the beginning of 1952 by the US Institute for Cancer Research. In this method, called nuclear transplantation, the nucleus containing the genetic material that controls growth and development is removed from an egg cell. The nucleus from the body cell of another organism of the same species is then placed into the enucleated cell--and the embryo, genetically identical to the organism from which the body cell was obtained, begins to grow!

World Book says that the goal was mass production of these transgenic animals in order to produce "vast quantities of needed drugs and other useful substances . . . at much lower cost than is possible with bioengineering methods."

With this noble purpose in view, let's leap ahead to 1996 and the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland. A few fanatically focused scientists, using untold millions of both public (yours) and private (industry) dollars, proudly announce the birth of a healthy cloned lamb. They name her Dolly. One year later a biotechnology company in Wisconsin produces a calf from a bull fetus, using a double nuclear transplantation, claiming it to be more efficient. The scientists aptly name him/her Gene and prophesy the cloned progeny would eventually produce an "unlimited number of identical animals with superior traits."

The Scots counter with their next move of philanthropy ("to promote the happiness or social elevation of mankind," from the Greek words philanthropia, love and anthropos, man). Roslin researchers insert a human gene into a sheep fetus cell and produce three live lambs, two of which survive: Polly and Molly. Their human gene apparently causes them to produce a blood-clotting protein useful for treating hemophilia!

Now move ahead to January 1998. Another biotech company at the University of Massachusetts uses the same method to produce three transgenic calves, the forerunners of a calf crop designed to carry a gene to produce human serum albumin.

(During intervening years, of course, there were a few transgenic goats and mice created in competing labs in the Western world, all for "medical purposes" and all for the benefit of the human race. Otherwise how would the hoodwinked public permit the reckless use of their tax dollars for such play dough technology?)

In the year 2001 science plods relentlessly on. It announces the desperate need to "harvest" what it calls "blank-state" stem cells that have the ability to grow into tissue for any part of the human body in order to supply much needed body parts. It comes under the ambiguous umbrella of "reproductive technology." And the next logical step is the one the world has been uneasily anticipating: the cloning of human embryos.

Italian embryologist, Dr Severino Antinori, says he will impregnate 200 women with embryos cloned, not from the cells of both father and mother, but from father or mother.

Dr Seang Lin Tan, medical director of the Reproductive Centre of McGill University insists there should be no human cloning, but leaves the laboratory door conveniently ajar--"unless we are sure it's safe." (The Canadian government is drafting rules that will ban human cloning but permits stem-cell research on embryos left over in fertility treatments.)

Dr Panos Zavos of the Kentucky Center for Reproductive Medicine and a colleague of the Italian doctor, replies that all that's needed is to "refine the technology" and "we will get there." (Globe and Mail, August 8, 2001)

Get where?

Medical science is mad. Philanthropy is not the bottom line. Lust for power is.

Viktor Frankenstein is here--and he is us!

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