Scientists at the Riken BioResource Center in Japan have managed to clone a mouse from a minuscule, peripheral blood sample for the first time. The method leaves donor animals virtually unharmed, and allows a single donor to be a clone source more than once. It also shows promise for the cloning of farm animals.
A common method used for animal cloning is somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which does not require egg fertilization. SCNT extracts the nucleus of an animal's cell (where nearly all of the necessary genetic information is stored) and also that of an egg cell. The donor nucleus is then inserted into the egg cell, which virtually adopts the new nucleus. Next, the egg is stimulated with a shock, at which point the cell starts to divide. After continued divisions, embryonic stem cells form, which can then be extracted and then injected into an embryo.
Normally, however, SCNT cloning is highly invasive and requires at least one donor to be euthanized. Sample sources that have shown success are generally taken from central locations, such as lymph nodes or bone marrow.
In this experiment, however, the scientists merely drew 10–15 μl of blood from a mouse's tail and collected white blood cells from that sample. The nuclei were then extracted from the white blood cells, and scientists continued with the SCNT process. Though birth rates were very low (~2%), one fertile mouse was successfully cloned and lived to about 23 months, a typical lifespan for a laboratory mouse.
This method could allow for the cloning of endangered or cherished animals (such as a cow that produces a large amount of milk, or "invaluable strains of mice" as the report states) since the donor need not be euthanized.
Soooooo... what are the moral implications for when humans can do this too? What is that embryo now? A mom and a dad never even come together. Is this still a real human since it bypassed normal reproductive methods? How about when a mother isn't even needed anymore... what are the laws on abortion for a fetus that has no mother? Do religious people consider this an abomination? How does this morally stand in the abortion issue? Man will completely control his ability to turn cells into a human. He will be able to program the DNA of said human as well. Is this playing God? When man becomes a "creator" himself and can create and give life, does he then earn the right to take it if he chooses? This must absolutely freak out you religious zealots who take such great offense to abortion. Man creating life without the need for the reproductive system to do it. Life from scratch, created by man. Kudos man!
"Do not try and bend the spoon. That is impossible. Only try and realize the truth - there is no spoon."
I don't think they've completely subverted the reproductive system, D49. If I understand correctly, they've just figured out how to clone a mouse without killing it. Apparently, they still need an embryo to inject it into.
I am the associate editor at Biology of Reproduction who handled this manuscript. Kiranami is correct. Many, many mouse clones have been created, but none using cells that are as easy to get as blood cells. However, the genetic material from the blood cells still needs to be placed into a mouse egg that has had its genetic material removed. So, you don't need the genes from the sperm or the egg, but you still need the rest of the egg. This was a very neat paper!