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Clone is a compelling blend of scientific suspense, dreams dashed, and frauds exposed, with provocative philosophical questions and an astute assessment of why Dolly's birth was only possible now. Like The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Lucy, and Chaos, this book gives us a window on history in the making, and an understanding of its profound effect on our lives.
Posted October 3, 2000
Looking for an accessible guide to cloning together with sex, scandal, a putative hoax, a fraud claim, counterclaims, industrial secrets and a cast of maverick scientists and myths that makes for a greatly entertaining true story ? To find a single book which has the potential to affect one's ideas and thoughts as to what it means to be human is a rarity, but some readers might be so affected by this work. Thematically weaving between the key historical developments leading to claims for the first cloning success using adult tissue and discussions of the moral ethics of whether and why such research be conducted, Kolata's account of the making of `Dolly' the sheep reminded me of Watson's `The Double helix'. Not only do we read here about the manipulation of genetic material outside the realms of human replication and fertility, we are continually provoked with the wider issues relating to food production processess, the social responsibilies of the research scientist, and the role of science journalism in informing public opinion.We are also exposed to the less attractive side of running the day-to-day life of the research laboratory - the struggle with grant competition; peer pressure, review and publication demands; conference attendance and institutional sponsor politics. Kolata provides all of this in a very well written and researched book including frank (and seemingly) honest biographies of the leading players in the `road to Dolly'. The story as presented here covers a period of just over one hundred years following Weismann's discovery of the `loss of information' with subsequent cellular differentiations of dividing tissue. Within twenty years or so the role of the cell nucleus had been determined, and by 1938, Spemann's `Embryonic Development and Induction' proposed the very nuclear transplant experiment that was to succeed some 60 years later. The first successful accounts of this technique involved the use of the embryonic frog tissue in the 1950s by Briggs & King, but the older, more differentiated cell' nuclei proved harder to handle and maintain. In the early 1960s, Gurdon succeeds with the transfer of what were thought to be adult, fully differentiated cells taken from amphibian intestines. At about the same time as these developments were unfolding, the first symposia to address the possibility of cloning and its implications for ethics had taken place. The end of the 1960s had seen the advent of gene isolation (though curiously little is said about the discovery of DNA itself and the significance of the newly founded growth area of molecular biology) and within the next ten years we had moved from the in vitro fertilisation of mice to Louise Brown, born in 1978. That same year saw the publication of a non-fiction book claiming that the real-life `rich, eccentric Max' has himself cloned with the assistance of a World renown scientist known by the pseudonym `Darwin' with the assistance of a seventeen year old virgin called `sparrow', who gives birth to a healthy baby boy. I would recommend reading Kolata for her retelling of the Rorvik (1978) story if for no other reason. The following year saw Illmensee claim to have cloned the first mice using the nucleus of embryonic stem cells and, again, we are both entertained and informed by Kolata's telling of this most remarkable tale of intrigue and collegiate suspicion of happenings in the laboratory. It was not until the 1980s` and 90s that successful sheep, cow and eventually monkey cloning was to be completed (all still using embryonic nuclear material transfer) at least suggesting that there was no in principle reason to believe adult cloning to be beyond possibility. However, very few scientists apparently held this latter belief - and these few were not encouraged to pursue their ideas. Now suitably brought up to speed with our history of embryology, experimental biology techniques and the sweat involved in conducting seemingly unglamorous basic laboratory scWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 10, 2012
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