(Reblogged from “Les Comptes” on LD)
Link to original article, not layman’s fit: http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/3/513.full
There is a lot of food for thought in the post by a Dr Mercola (which she basically reblogged). Firstly, of course, the journalistic style is emotional, provocative. It is aimed at shocking the reader awake. (It would e.g. be overruled on the witness stand in a court of law, due to emotionality.) This is always your first indication that something is not exactly of scientific origin.
Scientists have been known to say with a complete nerd-pan-face, “the statistical likelyhood of Earth exploding from a solar flare in such a case would be 95,7%. Very interesting!” As though the Earth were not where they find themselves. They are also the ones who say, “I could clone a human… hmm. Let’s see: If I start on Monday, I should have tangible results by Thursday…” You get the idea.
This leads me to the conclusion that either Dr Mercola is not a scientist, or he is somehow financially invested in this not happening.
Alright. As to The Deed itself: Let’s get to the details.
Each cell, also an ovum cell, consists of a “bag of plasma” (being a gooei, watery liquid) which contains a smaller “bag of plasma”, the nucleus.
The lion’s share of the DNA (our genetic code) lives in the nucleus, where it is protected from the metabolism going on in the rest of the cell. DNA is a very fragile molecule and highly sensitive to enzymes.
The rest of the cell sees to everything else. If the nucleus is the “brain”, then the rest of the cell is the body; the organs, the stomach, liver, kidneys, heart…
In the cytoplasm (the gooei watery liquid inside the cell) there live a lot of small organellae, each having a specific function. There are only two such organellae that have their own DNA: Mitochondria, and in plants, chloroplasts.
It is speculated that really early in evolution, small bacteria-like creatures invaded the larger nucleated cells. Somehow they came to a living agreement instead of killing each other; and ever since, they live in perfect harmony, the mitochondria producing energy for the cell and the cell providing a cozy home for the mitochondria.
We inherit most of our mitochondria from our mothers. Why? Because while the ovum is a complete cell, the sperm has only a nucleus at the tip; then a huge “power centre” filled with mitochondria in its neck, and a whip-like flagellum as a tail that drives the sperm forward. The mitochondria provide the go for the tail; but both the neck and the tail fall off during fertilization and only the head, the nucleus, makes it into the ovum.
Well, sometimes a mitochondrion or two sneak in alongside, as the neck breaks off. So it’s not 100%.
OK, so what does all this mean?
Ooplasmic transplantation: They have grafted (using a micropipette) some mitochondria from a fertile woman’s ovum into an infertile woman’s ovum, probably based on the idea that there’s something wrong with the infertile woman’s ova’s energy mechanism. And viola – the infertile ovum becomes fertile.
Let’s spell it out:
No nuclear genes have been tampered with. It’s like giving a new-born baby a heart transplant in order so it can live. It does not fall under “genetic modification”.
So the dear Doc’s claims to “germline modification” are pure sensationalism.
He demonstrates his ignorance in the next sentence:
“Based on what I’ve learned about the genetic engineering of plants, I’m inclined to say the ramifications could potentially be vast, dire, and completely unexpected.
As a general, broad-strokes rule, it seems few scientists fond of gene-tinkering have a well-rounded or holistic view of living organisms, opting instead to view the human body as a machine.”
It is a common fallacy to make presumtions based on plants and generalize to humans. Do you believe that if I transplant a cryogenic gene into you like into the long-life tomato, you’ll be able to enter croygenic sleep and survive long past your time like the tomato?
Genetic engineering on plants has been extreme and wild. This is because we don’t care half as much about plants as about animals.
“And as demonstrated with the multi-varied problems that have arisen from genetically engineered foods—from the development of superweeds and superpests, to the creation of a never-before-seen organism now linked to miscarriage and infertility—”
As I said, genetic experimentation on plants has been extreme and wild. Not only this, but there is a nasty capitalist agenda behind such companies (* reminder to self, blog about Monsanto!! *) that causes them, similar to Microsoft and Amazon, to strive for control over their clients. If you buy a Monsanto seed, you are buying a single, guaranteed bumper crop – and a guaranteed crop failure if you try to replant the seeds. This is deliberate, and it is there to keep you coming back and spending money on seed corn again, at Monsanto.
Superweeds and superpests: Evolution in the plant and insect kingdoms is fast and extreme; it’s their survival mechanism. New species arise all the time, especially where parasites are concerned. Superpests are the insect response to superpoisons like “Roundup”. I’d suspect that the poison “Roundup” is responsible for a lot more miscarriages and birth defects than the actual GM plants. Poison is after all poison.
“… A frank follow-up of ooplasmic transplantation pregnancies and infants reports that two out of 17 fetuses had an abnormal 45, XO karyotype. The authors assume the hypothesis of a link between chromosomal anomalies and oocytes manipulation, and reveal that one of the babies has been diagnosed at 18 months with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a spectrum of autism-related diagnoses.” [Emphasis mine]” ->
This is sloppy work, sorry. Normal IVF (in-vitro fertilization) works the following: Sperm and ova are mixed in-vitro; then the fertilized embryos are left to grow to the 8- or 16-cell stage. One single cell is carefully removed from each embryo and studied and tested for every conceivable genetic disorder that can to date be tested.
How could they miss 45,XO (a.k.a Turner’s Syndrome)?
It is perfectly feasible to expect that an ovum that has been bothered with, can divide abnormally; but didn’t they do embryo testing before implantation?
But it could of course be that the original mother (or even father) was a carrier for Turner’s Syndrome… which would explain their infertility in the first place. The donor mother’s mitochondria (which, if you remember, don’t live in the nucleus and have nothing to do with our chromosomes) are innocent.
Also, autism warrants a post of its own. Were these babies immunized, at birth, at 3 months and at 6 months, and again at 12 and 18 months, as is the medical habit? Evidence shows a link between early babyhood immunizations and autism. Too many experiments in one place.
Here comes an especially juicy bit, one that should have us all shaking in our boots:
The US Patent Laws! Dr Mercola fears patented humans.
“For example, Myriad Genetics, a private biotechnology company based in Utah, controls patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes [two genes associated with hereditary breast- and ovarian cancer]. Because of its patents, Myriad has the right to prevent anyone else from testing, studying, or even looking at these genes. It also holds the exclusive rights to any mutations along those genes. No one is allowed to do anything with the BRCA genes without Myriad’s permission.”
This is unbelievable! Patenting hands and feet? Patenting the heart bypass operation, the kidney transplant? No bleeding wonder that progress on cancer treatment has all but ground to a halt! Can’t we organize a revolt and throw those lawyers off the planet?
Cytoplasmic transplantation is not exactly gene manipulation. Common mistake. Nobody was “cloned”, and there was no “germline modification”. Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
However: In principle, do we want cloned humans? Of course not! Imagine some fiendish evil dictator “creating” a “superrace” (this is where you were going with your “superpests and superweeds”, isn’t it Dr Mercola?). Imagine people ordering “improvements” on their own DNA for their children. Imagine the narcissist billionaires of this world (bow to Mr President) cloning copies of themselves to succeed them in government – under the silly impression that those clones will somehow be more “accurate” heirs than naturally conceived children.
Then again, where the great hope of “gene cloning” lies is in medication. Imagine you could fix cystic fibrosis – a creeping genetic disease that kills your child at age 9 or so – by an injection into the bone marrow, at birth? Imagine you could alleviate fibromyalgia – a very painful genetic disease of the muscles – with such an “immunization” and save your otherwise normal child a lifetime of pain? Imagine a single injection – and your youngster who was diagnosed with a lethal brain cancer, is cured?
~ At the end of this debatable post (which caused a lively debate on LD, especially on points pertaining to vaccination and autism – of which I still have to blog on autism, too) – I thought I’ll include a bit of a treat for those who read so patiently.
Story time: From “The Assassin” (Solar Wind II)
A short while later, after a ride much smoother than yesterday’s mad chase, the Deep Base opened its hatch for them and Paean navigated inside. She waited for the hatch to seal and then opened the door of the craft. Shawn gaped.
“Where are we now?”
“Southern Deep Base,” she said. “Come, look!”
A part of her was wishing that John Whitcombe were here. He was of course at that wedding from hell, like everybody else. But maybe she could have talked to him, shared her fears and her heartbreak over a wonderful friend who had volunteered for a suicide mission… she couldn’t, she realized. It was confidential. She only had herself to talk to about it. She sank into a gloomy silence as she and Shawn drifted across the Deep Base, trying to distract themselves.
They poked into the empty hulls of space craft and the weird housing units. Paean found a biology lab and scratched around in it. She found frozen vials labelled as husky blood, with the number of the dog on them; and some petridishes growing under fluorescent lights, with something green. An evil scientist persona reared its loopy head in her arsenal of roles and peered through her eyes with a mad smile. Whoopee, a lab! Let’s play!
Shawn hung aimlessly around the lab for a while watching his sister, and then he left and went sniffing around the station, leaving Paean to her shenanigans.
She picked up one of the covered glass petridishes and studied the green stuff. What was it? Why were they growing it? She had listened in fascination to everything Michelle had told them back at Prime Base. Was this for a closed ecosystem? She knew enough of cloning by now not to open it. The culture would get contaminated. It had to be done inside a sterile flow cupboard.
There had to be somewhere in this lab that told her what this was and why they were growing it. Her gaze fell on the console, and she activated it with a light touch of the screen. Hmm. All the usual Sherman Files were there. She keyed in “Southern Deep Base” and “biolab” and found a screen that demanded a password. With a warning, and signed by Itzak. Itzak! Ha! The man had a one-track mind! She knew what the five-letter password had to be! She keyed in “husky” and the program opened its doors for her. She grinned and patted herself on the back for being a good hacker.
And there it was. Tobacco plants – a short description of the experiment. Could plants be made to grow and produce large amounts of oxygen, without gravity? Itzak and co seemed to be stuck at the oxygen half of the equation; the problem seemed to be that generating an area free from gravity was nearly as complex as generating artificial gravity. And for the oxygen, they were experimenting with more efficient metabolic cycles.
Gravity? Oxygen? This was for the Space Base! Paean forgot to breathe in excitement. She read the experimental protocol and shook her head. Aargh! They were being so dense with their single-enzyme approach! Staring themselves blind against protocol. She’d approach it from a much broader angle. Oxygen was produced by chlorophyll, which was resident in chloroplasts. To up the amount of oxygen production, you needed more aggressively replicating chloroplasts, ni? To balance things, the mitochondria had to grow faster too, increasing the whole cell metabolism. These things had been charted perfectly, the information was all available in the Sherman Files. She dug in the files and located the DNA map for both mitochondria and chloroplasts, and compared their replication genes. Hmm. There was of course the sequence of the valeriensis, that she had stepped up by many magnitudes… if she spliced that into the organellae… in fact, if she spliced it into the whole tobacco culture, what would the result be?
Mask, gloves… alcohol spray to clean the laminar flow cupboard – all these were such ingrained routines by now, they came like second nature. Paean switched the cabinet on, and the fans drew air in, micro-filtered it and blew it out over the work area. Sterile airflow. It was safe now to open the petridish and take a tiny sample out of the culture, and inject it into the Genitron of the lab, which she had taken into the flow cupboard.
Programming the Genitron was a matter of cutting and pasting parts of the Sherman Files. Just like the one on the ship, this Genitron was linked directly into the base’s console. She waited for it to sequence the genes of the tobacco, searched for the mitochondrial and chlorophyll sequences, and spliced the Valeriensis growth gene into them. And then she waited for the machine to process the request. A few minutes later the Genitron beeped, and she removed the green sample of tobacco cells out of it and placed them on a new petridish.
She got up from the flow cabinet and looked around, and studied the fridges pensively. She wondered what else they were planning to clone for the Space Base. High oxygen production made sense; but what about bioluminescence? What about having it wherever you needed it? She thought of the dismally dim orange jam jars along the Solar Wind’s passages. Brighter than that, for sure!
Some sense of warning made her turn, and she stifled a scream. Yikes! Her green monster tobacco was growing so fast, it was climbing out of its petridish! She grabbed it with her still gloved hands and looked for a suitable place to dispose of it. A bottle of pure acetic acid. That should fixate it! She found a glass jar and dumped the culture in there, petridish and all, and drenched it in the vicious acid, and then she had to find some foil to seal the jar. Because those fumes were terrible. They bit. She managed to find tin foil and covered the jar, and sealed it with broad paper tape. Inside the jar the green stuff stopped expanding and turned a whiter shade of pale. Phew! That could have gone wrong.
Light. Oxygen. She smiled. This was child’s play. Hundreds more fun than that dismal wedding! Aw, she could help them. Her gaze fell on the labelled husky blood in the fridge. And anger kicked her in the gut. Itzak was a wimp! He’d put his huskies ahead of the safety of two crewmembers! Well, she’d show him! Sherman’s tales of something monstrous in the Antarctic ice would have nothing on this…
(© Lyz Russo, 2008)