August 28, 2008
World Scientists Redouble Efforts to Clone Chris Thile
After near-misses, imminent success seen for human cloning milestone
LEIPZIG, GERMANY — An international consortium of scientific experts in the field of mammalian cloning is on the cusp of achieving the world’s first successful Chris Thile clone, according to recent findings published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics.
The group has been struggling for almost twenty years to overcome various experimental setbacks, including developmental defects in physiological as well as musical growth resulting from misregulation of so-called imprinted genes in the clones.
“Thile cloning presents many daunting challenges, and our previous efforts, while encouraging, have been fraught with certain difficulties,” said Harvard Molecular Biology professor Kenneth Eggers.
Indeed, early Thile “clones” were actually genetic hybrids, or “mosaics”, consisting of Thile cells intermingled with host cells, giving rise to the expression of an unpredictable subset of Thile traits. Such mosaic individuals often perfectly recapitulated one or more Thile traits but fell far short of the goal being totally identical to Thile.
Moreover, the field of Thile cloning suffered a major setback in 2005 when Woo Suk Hwang, the South Korean stem cell pioneer once dubbed the “king of Thile cloning” retracted multiple landmark publications amidst allegations of data fraud.
But recent advances in adult somatic cell reprogramming have enabled the harvesting of high-yield populations of pluripotent Thile stem cells, capable of giving rise to a wide variety of tissue types. According to the new results, these induced stem cells likely hold the key to Thile cloning, as they tend to survive the nuclear transfer technique that is the most problematic step in the cloning process.
These technical advances coincide with an important increase in the number of eligible females interested in gestating a cloned Thile embryo.
According to international ethical standards, a cloned embryo may only be implanted in an informed, consenting female who has passed a rigorous screening process establishing her desire and eligibility to bear a Thile clone to term.
“Ever since “I Am a Lighthouse” there has been an exponential rise in the number of women committed to bringing a genuine Thile clone to term,” said consortium president David Schuller of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. “It is great for the progress of our project, but on a personal level I must admit to being somewhat disturbed,” he added.
Although research in this field continues unabated, not all scientists are optimistic about the success of the current approach.
“The failure to reset imprinted genes during nuclear transfer dooms the consortium’s approach to Thile cloning,” said MIT professor Rudman Jaenick in testimony before Congress. He added, “An imperfect Thile clone is a dangerous abomination, a total affront to nature. The government needs to outlaw all Thile cloning before this becomes a crisis.”