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After Dolly: The Promise and Perils of Cloning Paperback – August 17, 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1997 the world was surprised to learn that scientists had cloned the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly. The lead scientist for the project, carried out at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, was Ian Wilmut, who in this engrossing book tells how he and his colleagues made their breakthrough. Many people were excited about the potential medical advances that cloning presented; others were convinced it was a step toward eugenics and human cloning. Wilmut, assisted by Highfield, science editor of Britain's Daily Telegraph, argues passionately that cloning will revolutionize medicine and—perhaps a little too optimistically after the South Korean cloning scandal—that scientists can be relied on to behave. He explains why a blastocyst, the 200 cells present a few days after fertilization, is not an embryo and should be permitted in medical research. But Wilmut opposes the use of genetic enhancement to create "designer babies." The author is a bit defensive at times, but he explains his positions clearly so readers on both sides of this contentious issue will be able to re-examine and clarify their own convictions. 20 b&w illus. (June 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Scientific American

"Fictional fascination with cloning has rarely focused on scientific fact but usually on issues of identity and how the sanctity of life will be challenged when 'ditto machines' of one kind or another create 'cookie cutter humans.' This obsession has led to endless confusion about what is possible and what is not." So writes Wilmut, leader of the team that 10 years ago cloned Dolly, the first animal created from an adult cell. He and Highfield, science editor of the Daily Telegraph in England, set out to separate fact from fiction. They succeed beautifully and go on to provide a forceful moral argument for cloning and its power to fight, and even eradicate, some of the most terrible diseases in existence. At the same time, this pioneer of cloning remains staunch in his opposition to using the procedure for human reproduction.

The book, despite its weighty concerns, avoids a moralizing tone and is exceedingly pleasant to read. To give a taste of the style: in explaining the arthritis that developed in Dolly's knee--unrelated, so far as they can tell, to cloning--the authors conclude that perhaps the condition "was inevitable for a corpulent sheep who had been indulged all her life and liked to stand up and beg on her rear legs."

Editors of Scientific American --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393330265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393330267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,694,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on November 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ian Wilmut - with the help of science journalist Roger Highfield - tells the exciting story of how he and his group cloned Dolly, whose donor cell came from the udder of an adult sheep. Much of the book describes the science surrounding the multistage procedures of cloning. The challenges are enormous because of the immense complexity of the reproductive process and for technical reasons. The nuclear transfers themselves were done under a microscope on cells much smaller than the dot at the end of this sentence.

Cloning has been successful in many species of mammals but according to Wilmut, attempts to clone humans are not ethical, feasible, or even desirable. The success rate is extremely low, abnormalities of pregnancy are the norm, the newborn mammals that survive are frequently not entirely normal, and identical genotypes ignore the environmental factors that influence individuality. This can be tolerated in cattle, but certainly not in humans. Using stem cells to cure disease is an entirely different story. Scientists are learning how to manipulate these cells to become replacements for diseased tissue in humans.

In 50 years, scientists may be using stem cells to cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, heart disease, and perhaps scores of other diseases. They might learn how to grow customized organs in the lab, rendering transplant waiting lists and immune suppressive therapy unnecessary. In 10 years, they should have somewhat of a handle on a few of these diseases and stem cell treatments or cures for a couple of them. Unfortunately, this valuable research has been slowed by political and ethical controversy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ten years ago today, on July 5, 1996, the famous sheep called Dolly was born. There were no press announcements, for her "creators" had yet to submit the paper on the experimental methods and results to a professional scientific journal. It was not until February of the following year that most of press and the world got to hear of this extraordinary accomplishment with mammalian cloning. There is probably no single scientific experiment that has caused such controversy as this one, with most of this controversy coming from a misguided and publicity seeking press.

The authors present in this book an overview of the experiment from standpoint of Ian Wilmut, as one who was directly involved in bringing about the birth of Dolly. Written with the assistance of a professional writer, Wilmut gives the reader a fascinating look into the science behind Dolly, and also make commentary on the biological and genetic science that came after her birth. All of these developments are very exciting, and are ample proof that we are living in extraordinary times. Genetic engineering is a fascinating technology, and hopefully it will continue to play a large role in optimizing the health of all organisms, human and otherwise.

As expected from his public discussion, Wilmut is against reproductive cloning. However, his warnings against its practice he backs up with scientific argument, detailing the many problems that arise in attempts to clone mammals. The authors do touch on the ethical arguments against human cloning, but their arguments on this account are faulty, and have been successfully countered by other individuals, and will not be repeated here.
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This is a very valuable book, of reasonable length and interesting reading. Since one of the two authors, Ian Wilmut, is the scientist who produced the cloned sheep, Dolly, in 1996, near Edinburgh Scotland, it gives the inside story of that birth. It also describes what led up to it as well as the process itself. It also tells of Dolly's life span. Additionally it details other recent examples of the cloning of animals, including so-called "pharming," the producing of better farm animals and animals that can provide sources of treatments for some human diseases. It also describes at least one very public fraudulent claim to have produced a human being through cloning. In fact Ian Wilmut himself opposes doing this at present, chiefly because of the risks involved. Overall well worth reading for those new to the field as well as others.

Barbara MacKinnon
Retired Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco
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