Owner of John Lennon's tooth would like to clone the musician

Lennon

NewImage

Back in 2011, I posted that one of John Lennon's teeth was up for auction. Canadian dentist Michael Zuk bought the molar for approximately $34,000 and says he would eventually like to use it to clone Lennon and raise him as his own son.

"He would still be his exact duplicate but you know, hopefully keep him away from drugs and cigarettes, that kind of thing," Zuk said.

Zuk has all kinds of other plans involving the tooth, including a DNA pendant, fine art photos, a documentary film, charity fundraising... It goes on and on over at JohnLennonTooth.com. (NME)

Horse Association must accept clones on registry


The American Quarter Horse Association has been ordered to accept cloned horses into its registry by a jury in the courtoom of U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lou Robinson. They were sued by a pair of Texas breeders, who said the organization's practice of excluding cloned horses was monopolistic. The judge did rule on awarding costs to the breeders, who spent some $900,000 on the case.

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Why new cloned mice can help scientists treat lab animals more humanely

This week, scientists cloned a mouse from cells found in a drop of mouse blood. That's different from other cloned mice, whose creation relied on more invasive sampling from the liver, bone marrow, and lymph nodes (read: the original animal was euthanized). Cloning mice is valuable for scientific research — it's handy to have your subjects be as alike one another as possible. Now, scientists have a way to do that without having to kill the original mouse.

Is new stem cell research super important, or kind of a big yawn?

It depends on who you ask. Earlier this week, researchers announced that they'd successfully turned adult skin cells into embryonic stem cells. Headlines were made — including more than one that heralded this as the first step in human cloning. If you believe The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Fox News, this research was a big deal. The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, however, had a different take. According to those sources, this is more of a technical advance (but not one that counts as a "breakthrough") and something that's unlikely to have any clinical relevance whatsoever.

No cloned Neanderthal baby for Harvard (at least not yet)

For the record, a Harvard scientist is NOT looking for an "adventurous woman" to give birth to a cloned Neanderthal. Ladies, you can stop filling out those application forms. Apparently, geneticist George Church and the German magazine Der Spiegel had a bit of a translation problem.

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel Prizes in science will be announced — one prize per day — between now and Wednesday. Today, the winners of the prize for physiology or medicine were announced. John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka will share the award for work related to cloning and our ability to manipulate the functioning of stem cells.

What's interesting here is that the research these two men are winning the Nobel for happened nearly a generation apart. Gurdon's work was crucial to the development of cloning. You'll recall that some embryonic stem cells can grow up to be anything, any part of animal's living tissue. Differentiated stem cells, in contrast, are destined for a specific job — for instance, they could grow into skin cells, or nerve cells, but not both. In 1952, other scientists had concluded that you could take genetic material from a very early frog embryo, inject it into the egg cell of another frog, and get that to grow into a living animal — a clone. But those researchers thought this process would only work up to a point. They didn't think you could clone an adult, or even an older fetus. Gurdon proved them wrong. In a series of experiments published between 1958, 1962, 1966, he worked with older and older donor cells, and produced more developed clones — eventually growing fully adult, fertile frogs from cells taken from the intestines of tadpoles.

Yamanaka, meanwhile, did his research in the early part of the 21st century, developing the methods that allow us to trick grown-up, set-in-their-ways cells into behaving more like embryonic stem cells. Yamanaka's work is linked to Gurdon's because it explains why Gurdon (and researchers after him) were able to successfully clone adult animals from cells that had fully differentiated.

The research history here is a little hard to follow, especially with Gurdon's work. The description of his findings I have here is what I've been able to piece together from several different sources, citing several different dates and specific achievements. To help cut through some of the confusion, here's a couple of links where you can get a good, reasonably detailed idea of what this research is, and why it matters:

This article on the history of cloning from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is easily readable and interesting, especially if your awareness of this topic begins with Dolly the Sheep.

• In 2009, Gurdon and Yamanaka won the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. That organization has a good explanation of how both men did their experiments and how their work ties together.

Meet Peng Peng, a newly cloned "good fat" sheep in China (photo)

Peng Peng (below), a cloned sheep, is seen on a video display at the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen, southern China April 23, 2012. Chinese scientists have cloned a genetically modified sheep containing a "good" type of fat found naturally in nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens that helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. "Peng Peng", which has a roundworm fat gene, weighed in at 5.74 kg when it was born on March 26 in a laboratory in China's far western region of Xinjiang. Mmmm, delicious roundworm genes.

(Picture taken April 23, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Cloning a wooly mammoth: Harder than it sounds

A Japanese research team has begun the process of cloning a wooly mammoth and thinks it can pull off the job in 5 years. Discover magazine is skeptical.