- 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 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,053,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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After Dolly: The Promise and Perils of Cloning
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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 the Hardcover 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 the Hardcover edition.
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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.
Wilmut takes a respectful and humble view of these valid ethical issues and the religious objections surrounding experimentation on a human embryo. His bottom line, however, is that the real immoral act would be to withhold definitive treatment of disease from that group of us who are already born.
"After Dolly" is written for a wide variety of readers, requiring knowledge of high school biology and a little genetics. Wilmut modestly gives away virtually all the credit to his team and other researchers, while thoroughly examining the science and history of this dynamic field. Amid the hysteria and media frenzy surrounding Dolly's birth and life, and the tons of newsprint generated about the possibility of cloning humans, Wilmut was perplexed by the lack of details written about how and why they cloned her. He is now excited to finally tell this story.
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.
Wilmut comes across in the book as being a very practical, patient, and humble man, and one who is definitely fed up with the public outcries and misrepresentations of biological science in today's newspapers and magazines. The reader is left with the impression that Wilmut felt honored to be involved in the Dolly experiment, and even might have been slightly surprised at its success, comparing for instance his laboratories with other more equipped laboratories across the ocean.
Cloning from adults at the time was "proved" to be "impossible" by some molecular biologists of the time, as the authors point out. One can only imagine then the excitement when Wilmut and his team verified through ultrasound that the Dolly fetus was healthy. And their determination to proceed with the experiment, in spite of the "impossibility" proofs, is another strong argument for ignoring the opinions of experts when doing scientific research. Frequently the experts are correct, but their words are not sacrosanct, as laboratory experimentation in this case proved all too well. One hates to think of the research that has not been done because of discouragement from "experts."
Since the book is about genetic engineering as it progressed after the birth of Dolly, one expects to find discussion on transgenesis and pharming, and this is indeed the case. The authors give an encapsulated but effective overview of the developments in genetic engineering primarily from the viewpoint on how they will affect human health.
The authors are optimistic about the future of genetic engineering, but are hesitant to engage in utopianism. They want to leave the impression that genetic engineering will have a minimal impact as compared with what has been done via natural evolution. But as the technologies of genetic engineering become more perfected, and as mammalian cloning becomes better understood, it is fair to say that genetic engineering will have a major impact in the twenty-first century. If it enhances human intelligence and health, if it makes couples happy with children born through human cloning, if it creates thousands of new transgenic animals and plants, in short if it radically changes the biosphere as we know it in a way that makes life on Earth more harmonious, then Wilmut and his team, along with all the other genetic engineers, deserve not only our utmost respect and praise, but also our envy: for taking the first steps into a fascinating new frontier.
Retired Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco