In Focus: The Start of Something Big?; May 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Beardsley; 2 Page(s)
It was supposed to be impossible. When Ian Wilmut, Keith H. S. Campbell and their colleagues at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland, announced in February that they had cloned an adult sheep to create a lamb with no father, they did not merely stun a world unprepared to contemplate human virgin births. They also startled a generation of researchers who had grown to believe, through many failed experiments, that cells from adult animals cannot be reprogrammed to make a whole new body. Dolly, the lamb at the epicenter of the culture-shock waves, developed from a sheep egg whose original nucleus had been replaced by a nucleus from an adult ewe¿s udder. By starving the donor cells for five days before extracting their nuclei, Wilmut and Campbell made the nuclear DNA susceptible to being reprogrammed once placed in an egg.
Dolly¿s birth thus represents an ethical and scientific watershed. Around the world, advisory committees and legislators are frantically trying to decide whether and when it might be ethical to duplicate the feat in humans. Traditional teachings that life begins at conception suddenly seem to be missing the point. "We have to rid our minds of artificial divides," says Patricia King of Georgetown University. President Bill Clinton quickly announced a ban on the use of federal funds for human cloning research and asked the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to recommend some actions.