Archive for the ‘Cloning’ Category

Scientists Clone 600 Mice from Single Drop of Blood

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Since mice aren’t really a nuisance to anyone…600 copies of a single mouse have been created from a single drop of the donor mouse’s blood.

Taking the blood from the tail of a donor mouse, a team of scientists in Japan isolated the white blood cells and used the nuclei for the cloning process.

The process, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, involves transferring the nucleus from an adult body cell – such as a blood or skin cell – into an unfertilized egg that has had its nucleus removed.

The point of the experiments was to see if circulating blood cells could be used to create an easily available source of donor cells to create valuable strains of lab mice.

After 25 rounds and 600 clones? We’re pretty sure they can stop wondering if it would work.

[BBC News]

Who Needs DNA to Bring Back the T-Rex?

Friday, October 12th, 2012

New research from scientists presenting in Proceedings of the Royal Society has put a damper on getting viable DNA from samples older than 8.5 million years. In studying fossilized moa bones, they discovered a half-life for DNA of about 521 years, meaning that getting even fragments of DNA older than 8.5 million years would be unlikely. While mother nature has a habit of throwing us curveballs, and that up until recently, the fact that DNA would last this long was considered an impossibility, would-be dinosaur breeders need not despair. There’s no reason a simple thing like lacking DNA should stop us from bringing back giant chomping things with tiny little arms. Recreating a T-Rex was always going to involve some genetic tampering.

We’d never use the original recipe to begin with
Let’s assume for a moment that we did have an intact strand of DNA from a T-Rex and a viable way to get it to replicate inside a cell and make a baby dino. We’d have to tamper with the DNA anyways for a variety of reasons.

1. First is that the world has changed since these giant scavengers roved the plains looking for food. In their era, 65 million years ago, the air had 150% more oxygen. To get your T-Rex in your dino zoo to do anything other than limp around and wheeze, you’d need to change its blood cells and lungs into something that could deal with our much thinner oxygen. This kind of re-engineering would have a dramatic effect on the whole creature from behavior to life-span. A T-Rex in 2012 wouldn’t behave the same way as she would have back in her day. Imagine watching an NBA basketball game played at 20,000 feet altitude. They’d be off their game, so would a T-Rex in our atmosphere. While our modified creature may look like a T-Rex, it’d be a very different animal. We’d have to give her a new designation, T-Rex+.

2. Not all the information is in the DNA. It’s not just our DNA that makes us who we are. Other epigenetic factors outside of DNA also help build organisms. A complete strand of DNA won’t likely have the DNA methylation or histone modifications needed to build an accurate dinosaur. These instructions can be critical. Early attempts at cloning that resulted in over-muscular cattle or sheep that died prematurely were due to missing vital instructions contained outside the DNA. To clone a dinosaur we’d have to make educated guesses about these instructions based on modern birds and reptiles.

3. A T-Rex isn’t just one animal. A human being isn’t just all the genetic and epigenetic information that make us. If we cloned you but left out all of the bacteria living in your stomach and intestines, you’d probably starve to death in weeks. A human being is a symbiote of about 50 million organisms. We’re the ones that get to call the shots (mostly). A carrion eating creature like a T-Rex is going to need a lot of critters, many long extinct, to help it digest its food. Making our T-Rex+ will mean creating a new pack of digestive bacteria, possibly borrowed from buzzards and komodo dragons. The end result would be a creature that behaves differently than a T-Rex. Did eating a bunch of hadrosaur meat give the T-Rex a tryptophan buzz that sent it into a mating frenzy because that’s when the bacterium like to spread? We may never know. We’d only be able to make an approximation.

How to make a T-Rex+
Now that we’ve accepted the fact that even a cloned T-Rex was never going to be an authentic, original article, we can get on with making a T-Rex that does everything we wanted it to do in the first place; Terrify and eat things.

Right now biologists are assembling genetic tool kits that allow you to custom design organisms. These are computer programs that tell a DNA replicator in what order to place the base sugars of ATGC, that then go onto to form the instruction set place into a cell. We’ve already created single-cell organisms from instructions that were sent via email. A next step is to move onto more complex forms of life. Along the way we’ll be able to add features like kinds of photosynthesis, proteins that perform special functions, instructions to manufacture vaccines, etc. One day you’ll be able to code for a specific kind of mouse or chicken and then make enhancements. If we took the chicken genome and tinkered around a bit, we could probably make something like a dinosaur, but suited for today’s environment. Paleontologist Jack Horner has already begun working with researchers to reverse-engineer ostriches into something like a dinosaur by switching off all of the later-evolved functions that made dinosaurs into birds.

The blueprint for this creature will be everything we know about the T-Rex. We can design bone structure, ligature and a thousand other tiny details we’ve learned from the fossil records. Although we may never find DNA, we have found cells inside T-Rex fossils, resembling the same kind in ovulating birds. Cells, protein and other kinds of information can help us build a replica that’s perhaps 95% accurate. Which really means more from a marketing point of view. A chimpanzee is arguably 96% of a human (or vice versa). We also share 40% of our genes with a carrot…

What is a T-Rex anyway?
To the purists, our T-Rex+ wouldn’t be the same. Even a full clone would still make some compromises that would leave them unhappy. But our T-Rex+ would fulfill our idea of what the creature is supposed to be. And even that’s an evolving concept. If Jurassic Park were filmed today, the animators would probably have to add a lot of feathers to the theropods like T-Rex. T-Rex DNA can only tell us part of the story about these creatures. While intact DNA could tell us a lot, maybe the best thing we can do is to make a bunch of creatures that look like them and set them loose in some place and see how they interact.

The T-Rex’s reign lasted for several million years. The animals that lived at the end of that period were different genetically than the ones at the beginning. Even individual T-Rex’s probably varied in temperament just as much as kittens from the same litter. There is no ideal T-Rex because they were all different.

These T-Rex+’s won’t be the same as what once walked the earth. But placed into a Cretaceous-like environment, we could understand how it filled out its ecological niche. These creatures would undoubtedly surprise us and have just as much to teach us as the animals we based them.

For a final thought, here’s a photograph of two sets of bones. Although they look almost identical, they’re separated by about 100 million years of evolution. The one on the right is a wolf. The one on the left is a Tasmanian Tiger. Sadly, the Tasmanian Tiger is now extinct (hopefully only temporarily).

Although they have 100 million years of evolution between them (we diverged from chimpanzees only about 10 million years ago and share more common relatives with a wolf than the the Tasmanian Tiger does) they evolved to fill very similar niches. Yet, for some reason, man was able to hunt the Tasmanian Tiger to extinction, possibly due to some other environmental factor that made it threatened, while the wolf still thrives.

The T-Rex was a hardy species whose reign was ended by an asteroid impact that shut down the photosynthesis process that fed the plant eaters they preyed upon. Without that cataclysm, who knows how long they could have lasted? Maybe part of their survival mechanism is their innate badassness that causes a monkey species to bring them back 65 million years later.

Woman Grows Ear on Her Arm to Replace Her Missing Ear!

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

We’ve seen tissues and body parts grown in petri dishes before. Nothing new, right? Now we’ve seen a human being’s own body used as a petri dish to grow a body part for her own body!

Sherrie Walters, a woman from Baltimore, has become that human being/test subject for an extremely radical and extremely weird procedure. Plastic surgeon and reconstructive surgeon Patrick Byrne has been looking for someone like Sherri Walters for quite a while to basically test a theory he had.

The discovery of a rapidly-spreading basal cell cancer in her ear in 2008 required the removal of part of her ear, part of her skull and her left ear canal. But now, in a groundbreaking and complicated set of surgeries, Johns Hopkins doctors have attached a new ear made from Walters’ own tissue.

Byrne used cartilage from Walters’ ribs to stitch together a new ear matching her right ear. He then implanted it under the skin of her forearm, where it grew for months.

Byrne later surgically attached the ear and its blood vessels. Then surgery Tuesday added shape and detail to the ear.

Walters still has two minor surgeries to go before the whole bizarre procedure is over with and she gets that ‘new’ ear.

And she’s got some sage advice before you ever end up in this situation:

“And it’s a cliche but use the sunscreen and if you are not sure about something, get it checked because that’s what I didn’t do.”

Different parts grown in different places? Hmm.

Every single guy right now is probably thinking about a particular woman in Total Recall.

Knock it off.

[CBS Baltimore (via @ManusFerrea}]

Japanese Scientists Grow Crude Liver in a Dish!

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Something straight out of a science fiction story is becoming a reality in Yokohama, Japan right now: regenerative organs.

There have been tons of attempts, theories and even a small handful of groundbreaking work concerning regenerating new organs, veins, tissue and even blood using stem cell research. It often sounds almost fantastical at times considering the small amount of work that’s actually been produced from the field.

Japanese researchers revealed at the International Society for Stem Cell Research last week that they’ve reproduced a liver-like tissue in a dish.

Their findings have yet to be published but there is a lot of buzz taking place on the internet this morning about this news release.

Our imaginations and the media will probably go crazy talking about the possibilities of this breakthrough. The reality is that this is about as crude an example of a regenerated as one could possibly get. It’s still got a long way to.

Using various cell types and what reads like a hipper, less late-night grave-diggy version of Frankenstein, researchers have basically taken human skin cells back to an ‘embryonic state’, reprogrammed them, let them begin to grow, added various other cells to the process and created a very primitive ‘liver bud’, a very early stage of liver development.

As primitive as this ‘liver’ is right now, the tissue does contain blood vessels that worked when the tissue was transplanted under the skin of a mouse.

There’s no doubt where this amazing technology is headed and that its goal of recreating human organs is going to happen given time.

And, George Daly, the director of the stem-cell transplantation program at the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts in charge of last week’s session, said:

“It blew my mind.”

[Nature]

Dr. Ian Malcolm Is Pissed: All-Female Lizard Species Created In Lab

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

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Henry Wu: You’re implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will… breed?

Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.

Scientists looking to create a species of all-female lizards have finally succeeded. An origin of a species like this has never been directly observed.

“It’s recreating the events that lead to new species,” said cell biologist Peter Baumann of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, whose new species is described May 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It relates to the question of how these unisexual species arise in the first place.”

Female-only species that reproduce by cloning themselves — a process called parthenogenesis, in which embryos develop without fertilization — were once considered dead-end evolutionary flukes. But in the last decade, unisexuality has been found in more than 80 groups of fish, amphibian and reptiles. It might not be such a dead end after all.

Peter, the kind of control you’re attempting is not possible. If there’s one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free. It expands to new territories. It crashes through barriers. Painfully, maybe even.. dangerously, but and… well, there it is.

[Wired Science]