Baby, it's cold outside

...and inside but not for long. 16 years of deep freeze ends in "new life."

A friend that recently lost her father sent me a link to a story about how scientists at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, have managed to clone a mouse from the brain cell of a mouse frozen for 16 years. I suspect that she misses her father very much and is keeping a close eye on technical developments that might aid "his return."

The Cloning process, for those unfamiliar with it, involves creating an exact genetic duplicate of the original organism, from a normal cell of the original organism. The best known example of this was Dolly the sheep who was born on July 5, 1996 from the nucleus of a normal sheep cell transferred into the egg cell of an unrelated ewe.

Just in case you're not aware of it, I'll emphasize that the clone resulting from these technical unions are not exactly like the original adult organism--rather they are the same as that original organism at conception. Anything that happened to the original organism after conception is forever gone.

So Dolly didn't "remember" anything that had happened to the sheep that had supplied the nucleus from which Dolly was created. Nor did Dolly have any memories from the ewe that supplied the egg into which the nucleus was placed. So horror stories about Hitler being cloned (or almost as bad, George W) ignore this fact, as do stories that oddly enough assume that clones will jump forth fully grown. Like cloned armies. Ummm. That would take decades to create. Clones have to go though the same process as does any other fertilized egg. 9 months in utero, childhood, et cetera.

So anyway, the scientists' findings appear today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Teruhiko Wakayama, the lead researcher, and his colleagues drew dead brain and blood cells from the frozen mice. The researchers injected the nuclei from the dead cells directly into unfertilized mice eggs, creating zygotes (fertilized eggs) and some of these went on to produce healthy mouse pups. But this process didn't proceed in quite the normal fashion.

Since it's not known whether nuclei from cells frozen for extended periods of time can be reprogrammed to develop into cloned animals, the Wakayama group approached the cloning cautiously. Instead of transferring each embryo into a mouse's oviduct (the tube by which eggs leave an ovary), the researchers extracted the inner cell mass from each embryo and generated lines of embryonic stem cells. The researchers managed to create 46 such lines, and used these lines to produce 13 mouse pups.

Anyway, this story is being widely reported on blogs and news sites around the world. I enjoyed reading the comments on the story linked above and here. It's from the online version of the Daily Mail, based in London England. The majority of the comments correctly realized from the story "Cloning from the grave: Scientists create new life from a mouse that has been frozen for 16 YEARS" that the mouse was a new mouse that was genetically the same as the original mouse. But was not the same mouse. A mistake all too many people make.

The story also mentioned the possibility of cloning extinct animals such as the woolly mammoth or saber-tooth tiger. A small portion of the commentators oddly enough concluded that scientists would try this with dinosaurs also. Jurassic park and all that. Of course since to use this technique the sample has to be once living tissue that's been consistently frozen since death. Dinosaur remains, by and large, are mineralized fossils. Not much good for this technique. Stone isn't organic, after all.

Fun stuff, of course, but don't worry. It's not likely to be used on humans anytime soon. You might have some luck resurrecting Fido or Fluffy in the next 5 years or so--but he or she'll only look the same. It's not going to be Fido reincarnated so be prepared to experience a new personality in the same body. Which might be a good thing. :-)


GA Girl said…
Oh goody - wooly mammoths to hunt to extinction again. Cheney will have something to do in his "golden" years.

Trying this on humans would finally put that nature/nurture argument to rest. Let's see if we can make a sweet and loving Hitler (or not). ;-)
GA Girl said…
forgot to mention that I love the vampire rodent!
We had some crackpot politician here who wanted to clone his departed infant son and had a scientist working on it. I mean, I feel for the guy - that's probably the worst thing I can think of, losing a child - but, to think he wanted to "replace" the one he lost is frightening.

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