Forget Dolly, there's an easier way to clone – and it works
Scientists use skin cells to create fertile mice which go on to have their own babies
Friday 24 July 2009
A new cloning technique has passed the ultimate scientific test showing that it is possible to generate healthy animals from single skin cells without the need for sexual reproduction.
Scientists have shown that these clones grow into healthy adults capable of producing their own offspring by normal breeding.
The technique, highlighted by The Independent last year and radically different from the cloning method used more than 10 years ago to produce Dolly the sheep, opens up the possibility of producing stem cells from a patient's skin to generate human tissue and possibly organs for transplant medicine. It also raises the prospect of it being used as a reproductive technique to help endangered species produce cloned offspring in captivity. But scientists have warned that it would be unethical – and illegal in Britain – to contemplate adapting the method to help infertile couples have their own biological children.
Two teams of Chinese scientists working independently said yesterday that they had produced live mice by genetically modifying mouse skin cells to convert them into embryonic-like cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). They both used a "gold standard" method to prove that the iPS cells were truly "pluripotent", meaning that they were capable of developing into complete adult animals.
Such iPS cells have already been shown to be capable of developing into the many different specialised tissues of the body but the two studies, to be published in the journals Nature and Cell Stem Cell went further by showing that the iPS cells could produce adult mice – clones of the mice that provided the original skin cells.
One of the groups, led by Professor Qi Zhou of the State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Biology in Beijing, used the technique to produce 27 cloned mice which went on to produce more than 300 second- and third-generation offspring by normal sexual reproduction.
The other group, led by Shaorong Gao of the Chinese National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing produced just one cloned embryo that survived to adulthood. Both groups used "tetraploid" embryos – which cannot develop on their own into viable foetuses – to prove that the iPS cells could produce healthy clones.
It would be unethical and illegal in Britain to use tetraploid human embryos to demonstrate the pluripotency of human iPS cells, says Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, a stem cell scientist at the MRC Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, north London.
"This work is important as it demonstrates that the reprogramming methods applied to mouse cells can give truly pluripotent cells, but it has to be stressed that it is not directly applicable to similar work with human cells," he said.
However, Robert Lanza, the chief scientific officer at the American biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology, said that there was little doubt that the same sorts of techniques could be applied to human cells to produce cloned children or "designer" babies, created by inserting iPS cells into an IVF embryo.
"In the excitement surrounding the generation of iPS cells, a number of serious scientific and ethical ramifications have been overlooked," he said.
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 Floyd Mayweather's mouthguard costs $25,000 - enough to fly to Las Vegas and back 18 times
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Which country would be hardest to invade?
Morgan Freeman on the riot-focused coverage of the Baltimore protests: 'F**k the media'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Nepal earthquake: Many survivors receiving no help despite relief effort
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...