emily anthes: hi, everyone. thanks so much for coming in themiddle of your work day. i’m really excited to be here. my name is emily anthes, and i’ma science journalist, and i’m here to tell you a littlebit about my new book, which is called "frankenstein’s cat:cuddling up to biotech’s brave new beasts." the idea for thisbook came to me gradually over the course of a coupleof years. i’m a big science geek, andwriting about science is what
i do for a living, so i spenda lot of time reading the science news and the journalsand press releases. and over the period of severalyears, i started noticing more and more of these strangeheadlines. i would see things like,"scientists produce glow-in-the-dark cats.""synthetic biology and the rise of the spider-goats.""robo-rat controlled by brain electrodes." and on and on andon these headlines seem to go. these headlines and many otherslike them made it clear
to me that science had given usthis whole new toolbox for tinkering with life. we were reshaping animal bodiesin profound new ways, altering their genetic codes,rebuilding their broken bodies, and supplementingtheir natural senses. so each of these stories wasinteresting on their own, but i began to wonder aboutthe bigger picture. we had all thesenew tools now. how and why werewe using them?
and what did it mean foranimals, and what did it say about us as humans thatwe were making these sorts of changes? so i don’t have time to answerall of these questions in detail today, but i thought whati would do is at least give you a glimpse into someof the things that are now becoming possible. one of the things i learned inresearching this book is that lots of the developments andideas that have traditionally
been relegated to sciencefiction are now, in fact, quickly becoming reality. so obviously, when you talkabout animal modification, one of the first things that comesto mind is genetic engineering. and my adventure into the worldof genetic engineering actually started notfar from here. it started at the petcoover at union square. and i went there because iwanted to buy myself a
collection of glowin the dark pets. it’s not as crazy an idea asit might at first sound. scientists, for instance, haveknown for many years that there are some creatures outthere, particularly marine organisms, that happento glow naturally. one of the most famous is thisjellyfish known as the crystal jellyfish, and it’s famous fornaturally producing what’s known as green fluorescentprotein, or gfp. this protein absorbs bluelight and re-emits it as
green, yielding the greenfluorescent ring you see around the jellyfish’s body. in the 1990s, scientists managedto isolate the gene that codes for gfp. and after they did this, theyrealized they could start moving it around the animalkingdom, take this gfp gene that comes from a jellyfish, andput it into all sorts of other critters. that leads you to animalslike this.
this is a monkey, and onlyone genetic tweak has been made to him. all that scientists have done istaken this gfp gene and put it in his genome. as a result, his body naturallyturns out these green fluorescent proteins, andunder a blacklight, like what you see here, he glowsin this eerie way. this photo has not beenaltered at all. so this kind of technologyis incredibly useful to
biologists, because not onlycan they make whole animals glow, they can engineer animalsthat glow only in certain cells or only in certaintissues or only during certain phases of development. and so by creating theseanimals, they get insight into biological processes and what’sgoing on inside the body of these animals. so from a scientificperspective, it’s an incredibly useful technology.
but about 10 years ago, someyoung entrepreneurs thought that glowing animals were kindof cool, and maybe there’d be a market for usingthis technology to create neon pets. they started with this fish,known as the zebrafish. it’s an incredibly commonaquarium fish. you’ll see them over at petco,most pet stores. it’s a very smalltropical fish. it normally has these black andwhite stripes, which is
what gives it its nameof zebrafish. and it’s been in use in theornamental fish industry for many, many decades. these entrepreneurs decided tostart with these zebrafish and then to transfer fluorescencegenes into zebrafish embryos. not just green fluorescentprotein, but red, orange, purple, all of the colorsof the rainbow. when you do this, you turnzebra fish into these. these are glofish.
they are america’s firstgenetically modified pets. they have been on the marketsince 2004, and they’re now widely available. they’re sold at most petcos,most petsmarts, walmarts. they also come with a range ofaccessories, so you can buy a special glofish kit. it’s an aquarium that comeswith blue and blacklights built in, so when you turn theselights on, it really brings out the glowin these fish.
so scientifically, these fishare not very radical. moving fluorescence genes aroundis one of the simplest kinds of genetic engineeringthat scientists do, and it’s very, very common in the lab. but what’s remarkable aboutthem, and why it was the first thing i did as i researched thisbook is it’s really the first biotech animal productthat is widely available to the public. they cost $5.00 or $6.00 a fish,so anyone who wants to
can just walk into petco orwalmart and buy themselves a whole aquarium full ofthese high tech, next generation pets. of course, this is a trivial useof biotechnology, and the company that makes these fishhas been criticized for using biotech for frivolouspurposes. but once you’ve developed thetechnology, it can be used in all sorts of ways. there’s a lab in singapore wherethe scientist is doing
the same thing. he is transferring fluorescence genes into zebrafish. but he’s not creating pets. what he’s tryingto do is create living pollution detectors. he’s managed to couple thesefluorescence jeans with genetic switches. so what happens is if thesefish swim in water that’s
contaminated with certainpollutants, they suddenly begin to glow. they switch from black andwhite to these neon fish. so that’s one example of howyou can take this gfp technology and use it ina very applied way. over the course of myadventures, i met some other extremely useful geneticallymodified animals. i went out to uc davis incalifornia, and met a herd of genetically modified goats.
they don’t look as interestingor strange as the fish, but they are genetically modifiedon the inside. and these go to been engineeredto produce high levels of a compound known aslysozime in their milk. lysozime is a naturallyoccurring enzyme, and it has antimicrobial properties. what it does is bursts bacterialcells like balloons, essentially, and can be used tocombat e. coli, salmonella, other sorts of diseases.
the idea is that the milk fromthese goats, which is high in lysozime, could perhapsbe fed to children. diarrhoeal disease is not ahuge problem in the us. it’s not something we normallythink of as a serious public health concern. but in many places around theworld, it’s a major cause of childhood mortality. so it’s not in humantrials yet. it’s still an animal trials.
but so far, this milk does showsome ability to promote intestinal health and helppiglets fight off various forms of diarrhoeal disease. the goal would be, eventually,to take this milk into human trials, and perhaps to get thesegenetically modified goats out in the fieldsproducing milk that anyone can drink. of course, you can’t talk aboutanimal biotechnology without talking about cloning.
that often comesup right away. and as it turns out, auniversity in texas, texas a&m, happens to have become aleader in animal cloning. they’re an amazing university. they’ve cloned six differentspecies of animals so far, and they’re working oncloning more. and so i went out to meet someof these clones and talk to the scientists there. while i was there, as anunexpected bonus, i had the
chance to meet the world’sfirst cloned cat. she was created as part of aproject that began in 2000, when a billionaire partneredwith some scientists at a&m because he wanted to clonehis beloved dog. when the scientists were talkingto him and working out the details of this project,they realized that there might be a market for cloned petsthat went beyond this billionaire– that many americans might wantto clone their pets.
so they decided that together,they would launch a company that would offer commercialpet cloning services. they called this company geneticsavings & clone. one of my other discoveries isthat animal cloners love puns and love wordplay, and so itis all over the field. this is just one ofmany examples. but when they launched thecompany, cats and dogs hadn’t actually been cloned yet. so before they started sellingtheir services, they realized
they would need to really naildown the technology and make sure that it worked. what they decided to dofirst was try and clone a cat named rainbow. this is rainbow. and the word cloning getsthrown around a lot. you see it in headlines andin short news articles. but i find that there’s not alot of discussion about what cloning actually meansand how it works.
so this talk isn’t tootechnical, but if you bear with me for a minute, i’d liketo walk you through the process of how the scientistswent about trying to clone rainbow. they started by harvestingsome of rainbow’s cells. but the trick is, you can’t justtake a random cat cell, like a skin cell from rainbow,and pop it into a new cat uterus and expect a wholenew cat to grow. biology doesn’t work that way.
so you need to get the dna fromrainbow’s cells into the proper vehicle, whichis an egg. so after they harvested cellsfrom rainbow, they recruited, euphemistically, somefeline egg donors. they harvested unfertilized eggsfrom all sorts of other female cats. then they used a tiny pipette,which is like a small little turkey baster, to essentiallysuck out the nucleus of all of these eggs.
so you might remember fromhigh school biology the nucleus is what contains thechromosomes and all the genetic instructions. so basically, what they’re doingis taking the dna from these eggs out and leavingyou with an empty egg. then they took one of rainbow’scells and injected the entire cell intothe empty egg. they put it just inbetween the inner and the outer membranes.
then they applied an electriccurrent to this whole cell within a cell system. what the electricity does isbasically turn the cell membranes into swiss cheese,poking holes in the membranes of both the egg and rainbow’sskin cell. as a result, the dna fromrainbow’s cell can flow into the empty egg. this sudden influx ofgenetic material actually tricks the egg.
it thinks it’s just beenfertilized by a sperm, and it will then go on to growand divide just like a normal embryo. what you end up with, then,is a cloned embryo– an embryo that has allthe genetic material from rainbow herself. these embryos are transferredinto surrogate mothers– other cats that have beenrecruited to the project. and if all goes well, after anormal period of gestation,
these surrogate mothersgive birth to a clone. things did, in fact, go wellwith the project to clone rainbow, and scientistsended up with a healthy little cat clone. this is her. she doesn’t look verymonstrous at all. and her name is actually cc,which stands for carbon copy, and also copy cat. so again, scientists havingfun with naming.
and scientists did varioustests on her. they found she was, in fact, aclone of rainbow, and that she was healthy and seemedto develop normally. after her service to thelaboratory was done, one of the scientists involved increating her, a man named doctor duane kraemer,adopted her. so when i went out to texas,he invited me over to his house to visit cc, who was about10 years old at that point, and i eagerly tookhim up on his offer.
the day did not exactly unfoldas planned, though. when i got over there, inaturally started to approach the front door of the house,and figured we’d be going inside to meet his cloned cat. but doctor kraemer and hiswife came running out and said, oh, no no no no. cc has her own house for herand her husband and their kids, was what he said to me. and so he sort of steered mearound to behind the house
where the humans lived, and sureenough, in the backyard was this two story house. we’re not talking about alittle doghouse here. this is a house that’s biggerthan my brooklyn apartment. and so he opened the door andlet me in, and there were five cats running around inside. so after they’d adopted cc,they thought she might be lonely, and they adopted a malecat named smokey to keep her company.
one of the things we do knowabout clones is that they can reproduce normally, and cc andsmokey did go on to breed, and had three kittens conceivedin the usual way. here are a couple photosi took from the inside the cat house. in the first one here, this isdoctor kraemer, one of the cloners, trying togive cc a pet. she was not very cooperativethe day i was visiting. she spent a lot of time ofsitting out in the window
looking over what she surelyimagines to be her kingdom. she’s a very pampered cat. there are ladders or steps hereto the second floor of the cat house. doctor kraemer also keeps all ofhis students’ dissertations up there, so it’s a combination library/cat residence. and they also build thisoutside, screened-in area for the cats so they can go out,get some fresh air.
they don’t have to worry aboutthe cats running off or being attacked by some sortof predator. so the cat family is stillliving out in texas. they all seem happy and healthyso far, and genetic savings & clone did go on toclone a couple cats for regular american customers. they cloned eight, i believe. but the price was high and thedemand was kind of low, so the company eventually shut down.
again, you can think of petcloning as a pretty trivial use of biotechnology,and it is. but the advances that let ccbe cloned paved the way for other applications. this is ditto. he is the world’s first clonedafrican wildcat. and african wildcats are aspecies of small exotic cats. they’re threatened in the wildby habitat loss and also by interbreeding withdomestic cats.
his name is ditto, which isanother great pun, i guess, by the scientists. and he was created by scientistsin new orleans, who work at what’s known as theaudubon center for research of endangered species, or acres. the acres scientists havereally made a name for themselves by using all sorts ofreproductive technology to help endangered species breed. they started with ivf andcreated test tube gorillas and
things like that. but as the technology hasadvanced, so has their work. and in recent years, they’vebecome especially known for their cloning projects and theircloning of small species of endangered cats. they’ve done four orfive of them now. so they’ve just small numbers ofthese cats, but the idea is that perhaps if we can refinethis cloning technology and really get it to work well andpredictably, that we can use
cloning to help prop upspecies that might be struggling in the wild. there’s also bruce. this is another animal clone. he is a cloned bull, and wasalso created at texas a&m. bruce is the clone of a specialbull named bull 86 who was discovered inthe early 1980s. what was amazing about bull 86is that he had a natural genetic mutation that justhappened to make him resistant
to all sorts of livestockdiseases. because of this one geneticerror, he was resistant to tuberculosis, salmonella,and a disease known as brucellosis, which is acontagious livestock disease. unfortunately, bull 86 got oldand died before the scientists could breed him. and though they saved some ofhis sperm, accidents happen, as they can in science, and itwas accidentally destroyed several years later.
so for a while, it seemed likebull 86’s valuable genes had died out with him. but cloning camealong in 1996. that’s when dolly was born. and the scientists at a&msuddenly had an idea. stashed away in the very backof the freezer was a skin biopsy that they had takenfrom bull 86’s ear 15 years earlier. they took the biopsy from thefreezer and used the genes it
contained to clone bull 86. they ended up withthis bull here. technically, his name is bull86 squared, which, in their scientific papers, thescientists say stands for his, quote, "exponential geneticpotential." but because he was also resistant to the samediseases, tb, salmonella, and brucellosis, students tookto calling him bruce. so this is just one animal– one bull that’s been cloned,but his birth raises
intriguing agriculturalpossibilities. lurking out there in our herdsand flocks might be other animals that, unbeknownst tous, happen to have natural genetic mutations that protectthem from disease. so one possibility is that if wecan find and identify these animals, we can use cloning tocreate new stocks of breeder animals and breed someof these helpful disease-resistant genes intolarger livestock populations. so it’s not just genetics.
we are also remaking animalbodies from the outside in. and in particular, advancesin veterinary medicine and materials science are lettingus give animals state of the art prosthetic limbs. one of the leaders in this fieldis a british veterinary surgeon named noel fitzpatrick,and he is sometimes known asthe bionic vet. he was the subjectof a documentary series by that title.
and that’s because he’s becomebest known for his work giving people’s pets bionic limbs– prosthetics that are permanentlyimplanted into their bodies. the device he invented iscalled the intraosseous transcutaneous amputationprosthesis, or itap, as everyone calls it. and that’s kind of a mouthful,but if you break down what those words mean, youreally get a good
sense of what it does. so osseous comes fromthe word for bone. intraosseous meansinside the bone. cutaneous, from theroot for skin. transcutaneous meansacross the skin. and then, of course, amputationand prosthesis. so if we put this together,what you end up with is a prosthetic device that getsinserted inside the bone and crosses through the skin.
this on the left here is whatthe itap actually looks like. it’s made of a titanium alloy. that’s what this rod is here. and this longer portion heregets implanted actually inside of an animal’s bone. this is an x-ray of a dog whohad the bottom portion of his leg amputated. this smaller metal piece herethen juts out through the skin and into the open air.
the idea is that once thisimplant has been surgically implanted and the animalrecovers, you can then pop different artificial pawsonto and off of this little metal peg here. you’ll also notice that thereis this sort of umbrella shaped cap, and it’s a littlehard to see, but that is also implanted just underneaththe surface of the skin. it’s covered in all of theselittle tiny holes, and that’s a crucial part ofthe itap device.
these holes allow the deviceto make a sturdy permanent interface with the body. what happens is thesoft tissues– the skin, the collagen,the muscle– actually grows into and throughthese holes, creating this permanent link betweenimplant and flesh. one of the first animals toget one of these itap is a bulldog named cole. when cole was eight years old,he developed a tumor in his
front left paw. and the traditional treatmentfor these kinds of bone tumors is often just to amputate thepaw and to let the dog go on with its life. we’ve probably all seenthree-legged dogs, and a lot of them get along just fine. but not all dogs do well onthree legs, and veterinarians were particularly worried aboutcole because he had severe arthritis.
and so they worried that ifthey took away one of his legs, his remaining three legsmight not be strong enough to support his fairly massivebody weight. so they agreed to givehim an itap. this is cole a few weeksafter the surgery. he had the device that we werejust looking at implanted. you can see the metal pegsticking out here, and the rest of the itap is hidden awayinside his leg there. once he healed and recoveredfrom the stress of the
surgery, then his owners andveterinarians could experiment with different kindsof artificial feet. this part of the itap is stillsort of a work in progress. engineers and veterinarians areworking together to figure out what designs of paws workbest and in what scenarios. here’s a wide variety of thedesigns that have been tried. and in cole’s case, they foundthat what worked best was actually one of the verylow tech solutions. this last one here isessentially just
a rubber sink stopper. so they popped this onto themetal peg that came out of cole’s foot, and thisis what they got. this is cole after he’srecovered from all of his surgeries and all the procedureswith his new prosthetic paw. it was a huge success. he tolerated the implant well. it did, in fact, grow into hisskin and become a permanent
part of his body, and he seemedto go back to life as a normal dog. his owners reported that mostpeople never even noticed he had a prosthetic paw unlessthey looked closely. and also, before cole had gonethrough all these medical procedures, he had been taughtsome of those conventional dog tricks, you know, where youcan say "paw" and the dog gives you his paw. and after all these procedures,cole would, in
fact, do it with eitherhis normal paw or his prosthetic paw. so he seemed to get rightback to life as a dog. fitzpatrick has alsodone cats. this is oscar, and she has thedistinction of being the first recipient of the double itap. you can see both of his backlegs have been replaced here. oscar unfortunately had a run-inwith a mechanical grain harvester and lost both ofhis back paws, but they
gave him two itaps. it’s the same general procedurethat we saw with cole, just at a smaller scale. i’ve got a short video i’ll showyou here where you can see oscar walking around onthese paws, and fitzpatrick also explains a little bitmore about the design. come on, boy. come on, bud.
there we go. come on, man. here, have that bit. good boy. this is a good [inaudible]. so it’s now been threeweeks since we put on oscar’s new feet. he likes his new blades,don’t you, oscar? he also likes fish.
but he can run and jump on themnow, and his feet are moving very well indeed. come on, then. so you will have seen hisprototype feet, which were just compressive devices. they were devices which just hada little spring in them. and that was just to encouragehim to use his feet in the first instance, and to remodelhis bone so that it built up around the metal.
now he’s moved on to a differentphase in his life where he needs tobe able to run. we can see that his newfoot is like a blade. it hits the ground like a normalfoot, and has a little sole on it, so he can getsome traction, and works like a seesaw. the foot was designed so thatthe metal inside his bone couldn’t break. so if oscar gets intodifficulty, the foot will
break here at a break pointbefore it would break the implant inside his bone. it’s very much like the bindingson a pair of skis. so it will break off here at thebinding before it breaks your leg, which is theway skis work. and we designed this implantwith that in mind. so if you’re skiing down thehill and you catch your foot, it will snap here beforeit breaks your leg. so that’s pretty cool.
[end video playback] emily anthes: so fitzpatrick hasnow done about two dozen of these animal itaps, and oneof the amazing things about them is that they’ve been sosuccessful that the itap is now in human trials in europe. one of the first patients is awoman named kira mason, and she lost her arm in thebombings of the london underground in 2005. she had tried a variety ofdifferent prosthetic devices
and found them lacking, andso she signed up for this clinical trial and got basicallythe same sort of itap that cole or oscar got. she reports that this new itaparm is much more convenient and comfortable forher to use. finally, towards the end of thebook, i get into the most extreme territory, and i starttalking about animal cyborgs, of which there arenow a variety. in particular, darpa, theresearch and development arm
of the pentagon, has beeninterested in developing remote-controlled, steerableinsect cyborgs. and this is because darpa haslong had an interest in creating little tinyflying drones– drones that are much smallerthan the ones we tend to hear about today. and the idea is that these tinydrones would maybe fly into occupied buildings ordistant caves and perhaps conduct surveillance–
send video or audio feeds backto military personnel and let us scope out a territory beforewe actually go there. the difficulty is that it’s hardto build these completely mechanical drones ata very small scale. partly that’s because thedynamics of flight change when you get that small. and there’s also abattery problem. these drones are so small andlight that they can barely carry any weight, and as aresult, the batteries they do
carry tend to bevery low power. they only keep these dronesaloft for a couple of minutes. so darpa realized that maybeinsects would be a shortcut to these kinds of drones. after all, they already knowhow to fly, and better yet, they power themselves. all we’d need to figure out howto do is to steer them and make them obey our commands. so in 2006, darpa put out a callasking researchers across
the country to submit proposalsfor how they would create these kinds ofinsect cyborgs. darpa funded a coupleof these proposals. one of the scientists who wonfunding is a man named michel maharbiz, and he’sat uc berkeley. he decided he was going to workwith these flour beetles. they’re relativelylarge beetles– three or four inches– so they’re bigger thanmost insects.
the trouble is that maharbiz isan electrical engineer, and he knew plenty about the wiringand the circuitry, but next to nothing aboutinsect biology. so to begin with, he started bydelving into the literature and trying to figure outwhat we knew about how these things fly. he ended up homing in on twoareas of the beetle brain at the base of each opticlobe, here and here. and the literature suggestedthat these areas of the brain
were involved in flightinitiation and cessation. so he tinkered around in his laband decided he was going to hack into thesebrain regions. he ended up threading thin wiresinto the base of each optic lobe. the wires then snaked out ofthe brain and connected to this circuit board. then, at the back of the circuitboard here, you see a big radio antenna.
the scientists wrote specialtysoftware, which they called beetle commander, and they couldsit with their laptops across the room 100 or moreyards away from the beetle and start issuing commandswith this software. the commands would be pickedup by the radio antenna, transmitted into the circuitboard, and then electrical pulses would go zinging downthese wires and into the beetle’s brain. through trial and error, theydiscovered that if they sent a
series of rapid fire electricalpulses into the beetle’s brain, it wouldsuddenly take flight. on the other hand, if they senta single long pulse to the same area of the brain, thebeetle would immediately stop flying. the effect was so dramaticthat the beetle would literally fall out of theair in mid-flight. and you don’t have to take myword for that, because you will see that in this video.
the beetles were not injured,by the way. emily anthes: so that’spretty dramatic. but of course, that’sjust step one. in order to actually be useful,the beetles need to not just stop and start, butgo in the right direction. and so the next step was tofigure out how to take control of the beetle’s movementswhile it was in the air. the scientists managed todo this by adding a second set of wires.
it’s not in this photo,unfortunately, but they went to the base of the beetle’swings on each side. and what they discovered is thatwhen they stimulated the right wing muscle, the rightwing would start beating with more force, and as a result,the beetle would naturally veer to the left. and vice versa, by stimulatingthe left wing muscle, the beetle would veerto the right. i have another video of that.
i’ll warn you in advance, it’sa little harder to see than the previous video, but you cansee definitely the beetle veering across the room. so i think i’ll stop it there. you guys the idea. it’s a little difficultto see. but this is a pretty dramaticthing to do, to take control of this beetle’s movements. but it’s still pretty crude.
so right now, all we’re able todo is make them veer in one direction or the other. in order to really be useful,we’ll need to take much more precise control. military commanders may wantthe beetle to go left by 40 degrees while flying at acertain altitude and speed. so that’s something that thescientists are working on now is to make much more fine-tunedcommands that they can control the beetle with.
so obviously, some of thesethings are very radical things to do to animals, particularlywhen you talk about taking over their nervous systems, andit’s easy to understand why some of these technologiesare controversial. it can certainly, in certaincases, cause animal suffering. it can turn animals intocommodities or tools. and in certain cases, it couldpotentially pose a risk to us or to the environment, toecosystems that we all share. these are absolutely seriousissues, and they deserve
serious consideration. there is plenty of reason to becautious as we move ahead with these technologies. i think we need more of asocietal discussion about how we want to use thesetechnologies, and why, and to what end. and we should absolutelybe prepared to reject applications or products thatpose undue dangers. but i also think there’s a lotof reason for hope, and animal
biotechnology could do more goodnot just for the world, but also for animals themselves,than it’s often given credit for. biotechnology, after all, isnot inherently good or bad. it’s merely a set of techniques,and we have choices about howwe can use them. what scares me a little bitis that if we have these knee-jerk reactions againstbiotechnology, then we’ll lose many, many of the goodbeneficial applications along
with the bad. so thank you guysfor having me. i know we don’t have a lot oftime left, but i’m happy to take questions. yes. audience: i hear there areglowing plants on kickstarter. have you seen them? what is your sentimentabout them? emily anthes: i haveseen them.
so the question is, there’s akickstarter campaign to fund the creation of glowingplants. and actually, that’snot a particularly radical thing to do. so scientists have createdglowing plants in the lab. but one of the things that’sbecome controversial about this project is that one of therewards for donating is a set of these seeds,supposedly– these glowing plant seeds.
so a big concern withgenetically modified organisms is what happens if theyget loose in the wild? and so i think the plantsare likely to be completely harmless. i’m not worried about humansafety or, if someone ate them, food safety. but i think it’s a little bitworrisome that we might see all these seeds goingout there in a totally unregulated way.
so i think that’s why it’sgotten so much attention. audience: i was just wonderingwith the cloning to save animals that are dying out, ifevery animal is a clone, how would the population not endup just being interbred? is that something that– emily anthes: right. so cloning is not a cure-all,and sometimes it’s presented as, well, all we haveto do is make more copies of these animals.
problem solved. i think that’s an exaggeration,but i think it can be useful in muchmore limited ways. so as you, i think, were gettingat, one of the big problems with endangered speciesisn’t just that they are small in number, but theylack genetic diversity. and so cloning, obviously,doesn’t solve that problem, because it only gives youreplicas of the animals you already have.
but it could potentially be usedto keep diversity from dwindling further. so if you have animals that diebefore they can reproduce, or are infertile for somereason, or something else happens, you could potentiallytake cell samples and clone them and at least sort of getthose genes back into the population. there’s also a big effort rightnow with frozen zoos– like tanks of liquid nitrogenwhere scientists are storing
cells and dna from all sortsof wild animals. and i think there’s realpotential there, because if we have a species that, say, nowlooks ok, but in 50 years is endangered, and the geneticdiversity has died off, we may have these samples of genes thathave disappeared and can perhaps clone them backinto existence. so i think in this limitedway, it could be useful. but yes, we’re not going to savespecies just by making thousands of clones.
audience: on a kind of relatedtopic, i saw on "60 minutes" maybe a year ago that they foundsome dinosaur dna, and they were actually, for real,legitimately trying to actually bring someof them back. what’s your perspective onthat, and do you know anything about it? emily anthes: i haven’tseen that. i mean, the perspective of everyscientist i’ve ever seen is that dinosaurs willnever be possible.
not only cells degrade overtime, but dna begins to degrade at the momentof death. and so i’ve not seenanyone say that. the dna is just too far gone. the moon shot project right nowis the mammoth, which is a lot more recent than thedinosaur, and it’s still unclear whether we will havegood enough dna, even these best preserved samples, andyou probably saw just last week, i think, they found anamazing preserved sample.
but so far, the dna isstill in fragments. the cells are deteriorated. so, i mean, scientists arestill hoping, but it’s– to excuse the pun–a mammoth project. it will take not just taking acell and popping it out and cloning it, but we’ll have topainstakingly reconstruct what we think the mammothgenome looked like. and so even that’s abit of a stretch. but dinosaurs really seemlike an impossibility.
audience: for the mammothproject, though, what species would we use as a host? emily anthes: the discussionis the elephant, which– audience: is sufficientlyclose? emily anthes: well, we don’tknow, and i don’t think we will know. and there are also questions,i think, about whether, even if we can do it, it’sfair to do it. at least my thought is thatthe ecosystems for these
animals have disappeared, andthe earth is so radically changed that what would we dowith these mammoths when we brought them back? would they just live in zoos? would it just be forour own amusement? just personally, my perspectiveis i would rather see this technology used to tryand keep the species we have now from dying out, ratherthan trying to bring back species that have beengone for a long time.
but others disagree with me. audience: you said one of thereasons that genetic savings & clone went out of business isbecause it was too expensive. is the cost coming downfor this technology? emily anthes: the costof pet cloning has not come down a lot. i don’t know of any commercialcat cloning companies in existence, but there are two dogcloning companies in south korea, and it’s $100,000 to$150,000 still to clone a dog.
but there are some companies inthe us that are banking on it coming down, andthey actually will store your pet’s dna. and their whole business modelis when cloning gets better and cheaper, then youcan clone your pets. we’ll see, i guess. did you have a follow up? audience: i think i sawthat cc with different colors than her clone.
is that a disappointment for petowners to realize they’re not exactly the same? emily anthes: yeah. i talk about this in the book. i didn’t get into it here. but if you were watchingclosely, you’ll notice that cc was grey and white, andrainbow was gray and white and orange. and it turns out that calicocats in particular are not
great candidates for cloning,because the genes for grey versus black fur are on one xchromosome, and the gene for orange fur on anotherx chromosome. so in calico cats, dependingon which x is active in a cell, you either get a patchof black or orange. but when you clone, scientistssuspect that what happens is the cell they used from cc hadthe x chromosome turned off in that particular cell,and as a result, cc didn’t express any orange.
the entrepreneurs were not happyabout this, because they thought people would realizethat they might not be a twin. the scientists didn’t do thisintentionally, but were really happy to see that cc didn’tlook the same. one of their concerns has beenthat pet owners might misunderstand the technologyand think they’re getting their same old pet back. so for them, they use thisexample a lot to remind people it’s not the same animal.
but calico cats, you’re alwaysgoing to run that risk in particular. yes? audience: what effect does themitochondrial dna have on this whole process? emily anthes: so that’s theother thing that you don’t hear talked about verymuch in cloning. so remember i showed you whenthey take the egg and they suck the nucleus out, that’s99.9% of the genetic material.
but mitochondria, which arethese little organelles that sit in the cytoplasm, have theirown tiny little genomes. and so technically, clonesaren’t quite perfect copies of their genetic donors, becausethey have the mitochondrial dna from their egg donors. most scientists sortof wave that off. because it’s so specialized andsmall, they tend to not– maybe it will have a slightlydifferent energy metabolism, but because it tends to nothave physical, visible
effects, scientists don’treally talk about it. but, you know, it is a smallcomplicating factor. audience: it woulddefinitely make ancestral analysis confusing. emily anthes: yes. one of the issues with cloningendangered species is because if you have a leopard and you’retrying to clone it, you don’t want to put all theseother endangered leopards through surgery to harvesttheir eggs.
so they tend to use eggs fromdomestic species, like domestic cats. and so there’s an interestingphilosophical question you can ask about if it’s a jaguar,we’re reproducing these endangered species, but it hasa tiny little bit of dna from a different species, are wereally continuing the lineage of the same species? and that’s a debate thatecologists are having. and it’s an interestingphilosophical question.
audience: you mentioned that oneof the xs was turned off, and that’s why the clonelooked different. is it possible that ifyou were to use– i’m not sure what cells wereused initially, if they were skin cells or something else,but if you used stem cells, would that make a difference? emily anthes: youknow, it could. one of the problems with a lotof this work is that so few animals of any one species havebeen created that there’s
not a lot of datato work with. i don’t believe that’ssomething that scientists have tried. i mean, the idea is when youclone, that if you take dna a from a skin cell, it’s what’sknown as differentiated. it’s specialized tobe skin cell dna. and in theory, when you put itin the egg, it’s supposed to get reset to the embryonicstate. but that doesn’t always happen,and sometimes it
happens partially. and so it’s a question of howwell we do at getting the dna to sort of reset to itsnormal settings. and that’s thought to be oneof the reasons that clones sometimes have birth defects ordie in the womb is because if the dna doesn’t getreprogrammed correctly, it may not be viable. audience: so is the other x onanywhere else in the clone? so if the clone is female, andthere were two xs, and one of
them was turned on and the otherone was off in the cell that was shot into the embryo,so did they do any tests to see if any other parts of thecat were [inaudible]? emily anthes: they didn’t. and, i mean, x inactivation issort of their best guess for why she didn’t have any orangewas that for each individual cell, a different x chromosomecan be on. and so, in theory, it could haveturned out that some of the orange xs wereon in some cells.
but they didn’t really lookinto it in detail. their guess is that, forwhatever reason, the dna didn’t reset, and so in all thecells, that x chromosome was inactive. but it’s not clear. audience: [inaudible] stupidquestion, but how does it work with men? because it sounds like withusing genetic material from a female animal and plugging thatwith more female– does
cloning actually work inthe male instance? emily anthes: yeah, it does, butif you clone a male cat, you’ll get a male cat. if you clone a female cat,you’ll get a female cat. and men have mitochondrialdna, it just comes from their mothers. so you can clone either sex. any other questions? thank you guys for coming.