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America's Culture War: Cloning

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In The News: Update on Reproduction…Are You a Man or a Mouse?

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Last year, we reported on a Massachusetts laboratory that had successfully grown sperm cells from stem cells (see Harrub, 2003). The year before that, we described how researchers at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College had announced that, for the first time, they had succeeded in creating an artificial womb lining (see Harrub, 2002). And on February 16, 2004, we reported how South Korean researchers have brought us one step closer to the reality of a human clone by producing the most advanced human embryonic clones to date, in order to obtain the stem cells inside the embryos (see Harrub and Thompson, 2004).

Now, in the latest bizarre announcement concerning reproductive research, Japanese researchers have successfully created a mouse without a father. Science writer Helen Pearson noted: “The team made the animals by combining the nucleus of one female’s egg with that of another, essentially creating a mouse with two mothers” (2004). As Pearson went on to explain:

The researchers started with an immature, female egg whose genes had not yet been stamped with an imprint. They took the egg from a mouse genetically engineered to lack both a gene known H19, which is normally subject to imprinting, and a region that would otherwise switch off a gene called Igf2. The two genes are thought to control fetal growth. Kono [Tomohiro (leader of the Japanese team)—BH/BT] believes that these steps endowed the egg with a pattern of gene activity similar to that of a sperm. They fused this sperm-like egg with another, mature egg from a different female.

Is this safe and wise? Consider that the Japanese researchers created 460 embryos, which then resulted in only ten live pups being born. Of those ten, only one survived to adulthood (see Kono, et al., 2004). We seriously doubt that anyone would like 460:1 odds regarding their survival. As Pearson observed: “Like human reproductive cloning, which is thought unsafe, it is not known whether the animals produced are entirely healthy and normal. The technique is also hugely laborious, has a high failure rate and would involve genetically engineering a human egg, which is generally considered to be ethically unacceptable” (2004). A logical question might be to ask why? Why use 460 embryos in an effort to create a single mouse, when left alone, mice can reproduce quite successfully. Science continues to forge ahead with the mantra: “If it can be done then it must be done.” And common sense gets left behind in the dust.

REFERENCES

Harrub, Brad (2002), “Artificial Womb,” In the News, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/492.

Harrub, Brad (2003), “Lab Grown Sperm Cells,” In the News, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2367.

Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2004), “Edging Our Way Toward a Human Clone,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2373.

Kono, Tomohiro, Yayoi Obata, Quiong Wu, et al., (2004), “Birth of Parthenogenetic Mice that Can Develop to Adulthood,” Nature, 428:860-864, April 22.

Pearson, Helen (2004), “Mouse Created Without Father,” Nature Science Update, [On-line], URL: http://www.nature.com/nsu/040419/040419-8.html.




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