PANTS ON FIRE -- VOTE!VOTE!VOTE!
*1. The Institute of Public Affairs - smearing indigenous NGOs
*2. Scottish Enterprise - pushing BIO propaganda into schools
*3. The John Innes Centre - biospinology at its fines
human and animal GE items:
1. By banning cloning, we can avoid Brave New World
2. GM cow project being reconsidered
3. Gene therapy: treatment turns on targeted genes
4. Bresagen's pig cloning success raises disease spectre
+5. Australian researchers clone pig
1. By banning cloning, we can avoid Brave New World
The Dallas Morning News May 7, 2001
Americans overwhelmingly oppose human cloning - fully 90 percent, according to a recent CNN/Time poll. Oddly, however, the law has yet to prohibit cloning. Certainly, it should, and Congress now has before it a new bill - proposed by Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Dave Weldon of Florida - that would accomplish that goal. In case you are new to the story, human cloning is the fabrication of individuals who are genetically identical to other individuals, living or even dead. Scientists who have studied the cloning four years ago of Dolly the sheep know how it would be done: Take a donor egg. Suck out the nucleus and thus remove the DNA.
Place in the egg a nucleus taken from a cell of the person who is to be copied. Jolt it with an electrical current and then hope the renucleated egg, upon transfer to a woman's uterus, grows into the intended person. If you think human cloning is fantasy, not to happen ever, think again. The making of Dolly has inspired a race among a small but determined band of people with Ph.D.s or M.D.s after their names to become the first to clone a human being. An "infertility specialist" from Kentucky has formed a consortium to produce the first human clone. And then there is a Canadian cult that worships (appropriately) science: The Raelians, as they call themselves, actually are in the lab right now, according to recent congressional testimony by one of their scientists. Biotechnology specialists expect a human being will be cloned by someone somewhere within a few years, perhaps even months. Most people are revolted by the very idea of human cloning, and rightly so. To achieve "success," many nuclei will be needed to fashion enough embryos so that at least one of them might take hold of life in utero and finally be born. The line score on Dolly: 277 nuclei transferred, 29 clonal embryos implanted, one live lamb clone. There is no reason to think the numbers would be any different for human cloning.
Yet even if they were to "improve" over time, the entire business still would constitute a monstrously immoral experiment upon the person to be. Scientists agree that cloning carries with it, as Leon Kass of the University of Chicago points out, "massive risks of producing unhealthy, abnormal and malformed children." Even in the case of a healthy, normal child, there would be matters of identity and individuality. The child, possessing the genotype of someone else, would have been cloned for a reason and would be shaped by "parents" accordingly. It takes no great insight to see the narcissism cloning invites - to create the person I had the genes to be (a Dallas Maverick, say) but for some reason was unable to be (a career-ending injury). Human cloning constitutes a rejection of the wisdom of the ages: That the arrival of a newborn announces a future that will be different from the past, precisely because the lottery of sex has given the world a new creation. Here it bears emphasis that human cloning is asexual reproduction. It stands in contrast to natural procreation. Philosophically, not to mention theologically, the two are vastly different. In procreation, parents beget children. In the asexual affair of cloning, parents - or whoever - manufacture a child. What cloning proposes is nothing less than a new understanding of human nature - indeed, to borrow C.S. Lewis' haunting term, its "abolition."
You might think a prospect so severe would already have moved Congress to act. But there has been a major snag: Some members want a ban on human cloning to be written so narrowly as to sanction "therapeutic cloning" - the creation of cloned embryos for research purposes. Such cloning is quite attractive for many people: Stem cells from cloned embryos, it is said, might give us a cure for cancer or Parkinson's disease. There are moral problems with such cloning, not least that new life will be created only to be exploited. But the ultimate reason that "therapeutic cloning" also should be outlawed is that cloning a human being necessarily begins with producing cloned human embryos. Only by preventing the latter can we be sure that we are doing as much as we can to stop the former - or at least to make it less likely. The Brownback-Weldon bill would aim that broadly. A more narrow focus won't do. And meanwhile, in "undisclosed places," there are eggs being donated, nuclei being sucked, clonings being attempted. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World may be closer than ever, but the good news is that we aren't without means of preventing its arrival. Terry Eastland is a regular contributor to Viewpoints. L
2. GM cow project being reconsidered
The Evening Post (Wellington) May 7, 2001
AgResearch could know in about two weeks whether it has to destroy cows expecting genetically modified calves in a Waikato-based experiment next month.
In a decision last week, the High Court set aside Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) approval for field trials of the experiment in which a human protein was inserted into cattle embryos. Erma's decision was set aside because the High Court found Erma had not followed the proper procedures in its decision-making process. On Friday, AgResearch asked the High Court to stay the part of its decision setting aside Erma's approval for the field trial. The stay remains in force until May 18. LOAD-DATE: May 8, 2001 [Entered May 9, 2001]
3. Treatment turns on targeted genes
Eisai team finds way to control expression of therapeutic genes
The Nikkei Weekly May 7, 2001
ATSUNOBU TAKESHITA Staff writer
It is easy to get caught up in the heady promises of gene therapy and forget how daunting a task scientists face trying to introduce genes into the body to treat specific diseases.
Most of the gene therapy research carried out to date has focused on the creation of vectors - the vehicles that can transport therapeutic genes into cells. Working primarily with virus vectors, scientists have been trying to see just how many copies of the gene they can get into cells. But the success of any gene therapy will be measured ultimately by the extent of its side effects as well as by its efficacy. Administering a virus vector that injects its therapeutic payload into any cell in the body is an obvious invitation to complications. So another area of vital importance for successful gene therapy is the selective targeting of therapeutic genes to the specific disease-related cells. This latter challenge has become a growing subject of research in labs around the world. One strategy being taken is to target receptors on cells. An example of this is the vector based on the hepatitis-B virus developed by a group at Keio University. The HBV vector selectively introduces therapeutic genes into liver cells because that is the natural target cell of the virus. But Eisai Co. is working on a different approach that controls the expression of therapeutic genes at the genetic level inside cells. The strategy involves linking the therapeutic gene to a short DNA sequence called a promoter that only switches on the therapeutic gene inside certain kinds of cells. Although the human genome comprises a sequence of some 3 billion bases, only around 1.5% of these are for genes that code for proteins. The vast remainder is assumed to be junk, but among this noise are a number of short DNA sequences called promoters that reside near the actual genes and act like switches to turn the genes on. An activated promoter in turn activates its associated gene, promoting the transcription of deoxyribonucleic acid into ribonucleic acid, which then moves out of the nucleus where it serves as the template for the synthesis of the encoded protein. The human body is made up of some 60 trillion cells, and almost every cell has the exact same set of DNA. What makes the cells different? The identity of individual cells is determined by which promoters are switched on.
Artificial promoters Eisai's new method of targeted gene therapy is based on the introduction of artificial promoters that only switch on in specific kinds of cells.
The company is focusing on brain cells, seeking gene therapies for such disorders as Parkinson's disease. The method, however, has potential applications in gene therapy targeting any cell type for which a unique promoter can be found. Eisai has many years of experience researching the brain, as typified by Aricept, its drug for the treatment of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The company's discovery of selective promoters for different types of brain cells was born from this long tradition of research, combined with clever use of human genome data. The work was carried out by Eiki Takahashi and colleagues at the Laboratory of Seeds Finding Technology in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, a research unit set up in April 1999 to search at the genetic level for new biological targets. The calcium channel is a type of cell-surface receptor, and Eisai has been studying this protein since 1989 as part of its research into brain-related diseases. The Takahashi team was interested in learning why some brain cells have calcium channels while others do not, so it searched the genome for clues. The team discovered that the difference was related to the length of a certain promoter in the brain cells. Brain cells that have a lengthy version of the promoter, comprising a relatively long sequence of DNA bases, express the calcium channel on their surface. Cells with an abbreviated version of the promoter do not express this particular receptor. To verify this mechanism of action, the researchers linked promoters of different lengths to an enzyme called galactosidase and inserted the construct into fertilized mouse eggs to produce transgenic mice. When they did this, what they discovered was that the enzyme was active in one particular type of brain cell when the promoter was around 6,000 bases long, and it was active in a different type of brain cell when the promoter was around 3,000 bases long. In other words, the Eisai researchers had found a way to control the expression of genes in specific types of cells by using promoters of different lengths. So far, the company has only identified promoters for a few kinds of cells in the cerebellum. For full-fledged gene therapy it will be necessary to find promoters for a variety of different types of cells. But now that the human genome has largely been sequenced, there is a good chance that genome analysis can yield many more promoters. "It is a thread that we can follow to solve the (selectivity) problem of gene therapy," Takahashi explained.
4. WRAP-Bresagen's pig cloning success raises disease spectre
AAP NEWSFEED May 9, 2001,
General News; Finance Wire
MELBOURNE, May 9 AAP - Australia's first cloned pig was unveiled today, igniting debate about both the ethics and value of the new cloning process and raising the spectre of mad cow disease. The pig, a female named simply "Pig" from a group which has been isolated on Kangaroo Island, off South Australia for almost 200 years was borne from the joint efforts of listed Adelaide biotechnology company BresaGen Ltd and Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital. Now five weeks old, the animal was healthy and growing normally in a company piggery in suburban Adelaide, BresaGen said today. Cloning program leader, Dr Mark Nottle, said the most obvious use for the pig cloning was livestock improvement, but the greatest potential was seen in the field of supplying transplant material for humans.
But genetic engineering campaigner Bob Phelps said there were grave dangers in using animal tissue in transplants.
Mr Phelps, the director of Australia's GenEthics Network, said prions, the agents believed responsible for mad cow disease, could be passed on in human surgery using animal tissue. "We should be very wary of any use of animal organs in humans because there is a high risk of the transfer of animal diseases. "It will be difficult to prevent viruses, bacteria and especially prions, which are not really understood at this point," Mr Phelps told AAP. Prions are the recently discovered agents for causing serious diseases like cancers and creutzfeldt jakob or mad cow disease.
"They seem to be a self-replicating protein so they may not be genes at all," he said. He called for a five-year freeze on commercialisation of the technology. "It is uncertain technology with uncertain outcomes," he said. Dr Tony d'Apice (pron: Dap-i-shay), of St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne, said the pig cloning technology would help identify the mechanics of organ rejection on a genetic basis. "The gene, called the 'Gal gene' is present in pigs, but absent in humans," Dr d'Apice said. "It will be possible to produce pigs without this gene and provide donor organs more compatible for human transplantation."
Overseas analysts have estimated that the market for organs alone was worth $US6 billion a year. Mr Phelps said the mechanism by which organ rejection worked was very unclear. "Rejection is a multifaceted mechanism and involves a complex of genes, not just one because you are basically trying to smuggle in a foreign organ."
He believed the Roslin Research Institute had abandoned work on identifying the genetic mechanics involved in organ rejection. BresaGen said the technology used to clone the Adelaide pig was very different to that used to produce Dolly the sheep in 1997. Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned, was unveiled by the Edinburgh-based Roslin Research Institute in February 1997. The institute has since followed on its success with Dolly by producing cloned pigs and chickens. BresaGen has applied for patents to the techniques employed in producing the pig. Critics of genetic engineering have also called into question the application of patent laws to medical techniques and discoveries. Research conducted in the United Kingdom last year showed that 9,364 patent applications had been lodged in 40 countries covering medical discoveries, over 60 per cent of them in the last three years. Mr Phelps said pigs were also involved in an incident in Adelaide during the 1980s in which 67 animals fattened using human growth hormones ended up in city butchers' shops. "We just don't want people experimented on," he said. Bresgen sahres closed up four cents to $1.27. LOAD-DATE: May 9, 2001
5. Australian researchers clone pig
BBC Online Sci/Tech
[http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1321000/1-1321470.stm] Wednesday, 9 May, 2001,
Australia has produced its first pig clone. The animal, which is now five weeks old, is said to be healthy and growing normally. The piglet was made using new technology that could help prevent animal diseases and aid human organ transplants, the biotechnology company behind the development claimed.
BresaGen Ltd, working with St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne, said it produced the clone from cells that had been frozen in liquid nitrogen for more than two years. The world's first pig clones were announced in March last year by researchers working for the Scottish biotechnology firm PPL Therapeutics. Last month, the commercial offshoot of the Roslin Institute said it had also managed to create gene-altered, or transgenic, pig clones as well.
Modification of the animals' genetic make-up is vital if pig organs are to be used successfully in humans.
Unaltered, animal livers, kidneys or hearts would be rejected by the human immune system. BresaGen said the technology it used to clone Australia's pig was different from that used to make Dolly the sheep, the first large animal to be copied from an adult cell. "Basically, what works in sheep doesn't work in pigs, so we had to start from scratch," said chief executive John Smeaton. The company said its pig cloning technology, like that of PPL's, was potentially life-saving, with thousands of people around the world dying each year while they waited for organ transplantation. "It is anticipated that the new cloning technology will have a major impact in guarding against the outbreak of animal disease and in the area of xenotransplantation - the use of animal organs for transplantation into humans," the company said in a statement.