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FleshFactor: Polly and deontology...

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"

>And while this festival was in preparation, what should happen but a
>sheep named Dolly in Scotland takes a biological quantum leap [February
>1997], leaving the adventures of freely-selectable identities and
>constructed personalities of the Internet communities in its shadow, by
>portending "body sampling" and biogenetic avatars in the place of mere
>networked VR-avatars. 

--Gerfried Stocker, from his Opening Statement to FleshFactor

Dolly's engineers have produced a lamb that has a human gene in every cell
of its body.  Its name is Polly... 

The scientists in Scotland who produced Dolly, the sheep that was cloned
from an adult, announced on July 24th, 1997, that they had taken a major
step in the genetic engineering of animals.  Using a method much like that
used to produce Dolly, they created a lamb that has a human gene in
every cell of its body. 

Cloning experts say the work is a milestone.  Animals with human genes
could be used, in theory, to produce hormones or other biological products
to treat human diseases.  They could also be given human genetic diseases
and then be used to test new treatments.  And genetically altered animals
might also produce organs that could be transplanted into humans with less
chance of rejection than now exists. 

But the only method available to genetically engineer animals has been
tedious and unreliable.  And scientists could only add genes, not take
them away, restricting the method's uses. 

The new work has not yet been published in a scientific journal and there
is not independent confirmation of the accomplishment, but scientists in
the industry reacted positively to the claims. 

"It's very exciting," said Dr. Stephen Squinto, a vice-president of
research at Alexion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven, Connecticut. "If what
I'm hearing is true, it's another leap." 

James Geraghty, president and chief executive officer of Genzyme
Transgenics, a company in Framingham, Massachusetts, that is developing
genetically engineered animals to serve as living drug factories, said he,
too, was impressd.  It is, he said, "an impressive and very significant

To genetically engineer sheep, the research team, led by Dr. Keith
Campbell of PPL Therapeutics and Dr. Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute of
Roslin, Scotland, essentially made whole animals out of skin cells taken
from fetal sheep.  Once they had the fetal cells, they grew them in the
laboratory and added new genes, at least one of which was human. 

The next step was to replace the genetic material of a sheep's egg with
that of one of the fetal skin cells.  When a fetal cell's genes
successfully took up residence in the nucleus of an egg cell and directed
the development of a baby lamb whose every cell contained the skin cell's
genes, the cloning was completed.  And the resulting lamb had the new
genes that had been added in the lab. 

The first genetically engineered lamb, which the researchers named Polly,
because she is a Poll Dorset sheep, was born about a month ago [mid-July
1997].  She was cloned from a fetal cell that had a human gene and an
innocuous second gene added as a marker.  Two other lambs were born a
couple of days later and are expected to have the human gene and the
marker gene.  Two others have only the marker gene, Dr. Campbell said. 

PPL, which sponsored the work, declined to say which human gene was added
to the sheep until it publishes the work in a scientific journal.  "We are
trying not to compromise publication in prestige journals," said Dr. Alan
Colman, the scientific director of PPL.  He said that the company
announced the birth of the lambs in order to assuage its stockholders, who
were peeved by the way the story of Dolly suddenly appeared in the press
in February. 

Dr. Randall Prather of the University of Missouri, who visited the Roslin
Institute in the spring and learned of the research then, said it "will
revolutionize transgenics in domestic animals," by allowing investigators,
for the first time, to add and remove genes from animals at will. 

Dr. Lee Silver, a mouse molecular geneticist at Princeton University, said
the speed and the implications of the work were stunning. 

"After Dolly, everyone would have predicted this, but they were saying it
would happen in five or 10 years," Dr. Silver said. 

[source: New York Times Service]


Biotechnology companies are operating well ahead of ethical concerns. 
Cloning is essential to all biotechnology futures. Cloning/transgenics
will be a 30 billion dollar (US$) global industry in the first decade of
the 21st century.

Tom Sherman, moderator, FleshFactor net-symposium


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