It Is Easier to Clone a Human Than to Blend One With an Animal

By Eliza Strickland | February 4, 2009 3:11 pm

hybrid embryosAfter years of fiddling with human, mouse, rabbit, and cow cells, researcher Robert Lanza has declared that it’s impossible to create human-animal hybrid embryos, but that human cloning appears to be eminently doable.

Lanza wasn’t trying to create some freakish chimera, nor did he intend to bring forth a squalling baby as the world’s first human clone. But ever since researchers cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996 by transferring the nucleus of one of her cells into the nucleus-free egg of another sheep, scientists, ethicists, politicians, and the public have wondered whether a person could be cloned in the same way [ScienceNOW Daily News]. While human cloning has largely been rejected as unethical, many researchers are excited by the idea of “therapeutic” cloning, in which the same technique could be used to create embryos that would be harvested for medically useful stem cells. Those stem cells would have the same genetic profile as a patient and would thus avoid immune-rejection issues [ScienceNOW Daily News].

Because of the shortage of human egg donors, the hybrids were proposed as a way of creating large numbers of human embryo clones to harvest stem cells in bulk [Telegraph]. Lanza’s stem cell company, Advanced Cell Technology, has spent several years inserting human nuclei into egg cells from mice, rabbits, and cows, but all of the thousands of embryos they created in this way failed to develop. “At first we thought it would just be a matter of tweaking the culture conditions,” says Lanza. But “the problem was far more fundamental” [Nature News].

The hybrid embryos looked fine initially, but they quickly fizzled, Lanza reported in the journal Cloning and Stem Cells. A mouse-human hybrid petered out after just one [cell] division. The cow and rabbit human hybrids went further, but stopped at the point when maternal DNA is supposed to kick in and turn the ball of cells into a proper embryo, Lanza said [Reuters]. However, some stem cell researchers say that Lanza’s results don’t definitively prove that hybrid embryos are a dead end, and say that a hybrid using two closely related species, like humans and primates, might fare better.

Finally, about that human cloning: in the same study, Lanza notes that a human nucleus inserted into a different human’s egg cell appears to develop normally. “We show for the first time that the same genes turned on in normal human embryos are the same genes turned on in human clones” [Wired News], he says. If Lanza’s study holds up to further scrutiny, it will mean that there are no technical barriers to therapeutic or reproductive cloning. Which means, some experts say, that it’s just a matter of time before someone tries to make a genetic copy of themselves.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Fighting for the Right to Clone profiles Robert Lanza
80beats: Lab-Grown Red Blood Cells Could Allow for “Blood Farms” (another Lanza discovery)
80beats: Cloning Makes a Mountain Goat Un-Extinct, But the Newborn Kid Dies
80beats: Will Dog Cloning Become Mainstream as the Price Drops?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
MORE ABOUT: cloning, stem cells
  • Chubbee

    The religious loons are gonna have a field day with this one

  • Jumblepudding

    look how the one that would have become a minotaur appears to have advanced the farthest. Proof that humans are a lot like cattle.

  • Logan Wilson

    Why did Lanza want to create a baby for the first human ever cloned? Why not clone a toodler or a teenager, or even an adult? Why a baby? What was the purpose for choosing the baby?

  • Vs

    Logan, who said he took cells from a baby original? He is going “to bring forth a squalling baby” because a clone, as any human, is always born as a baby, no matter how old was the original:)

    Besides, as some clones are reported to have “old” telomeres and shorter lifespan (depending of how old was the original), to clone a baby original is more ethical for the clone because this promises him/her longer life and no premature aging (i know we’re about to tame aging one day, but currently it’s out of control and the clone would definitely suffer who knows for how long).

  • KF

    Scientist can’t create a human/animal hybrid, only human/human? Hmmmmm. Maybe humans are not descended from animals after all….. Maybe humans are an entirely different species…. So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27) What a thought!

  • Landon

    KF… your comment makes no sense… for one thing it said that her studies did not prove that a human/animal hybrid was impossible. And even if it were true that we could not produce a hybrid ever that has no bearing on how “animal” we are. It only means that we can in no way intermingle our DNA to produce half and half concoctions. We are far from “entirely different species” we share much of our genetic material with all sorts of other animals. So sorry to burst your bubble but humans are animals.

  • KF

    Landon…direct quote from article “After years of fiddling with human, mouse, rabbit, and cow cells, researcher Robert Lanza has declared that it’s impossible to create human-animal hybrid embryos, but that human cloning appears to be eminently doable.” Note “impossible”. The scientist was Robert Lanza — he, not she. If scientist are able to produce animal/animal hybrids, why are not human/animal hybrids possible, if as asserted, we are animals. There must be something special/different in human DNA that blocks human/animal hybrid possibilities. I remarked on that difference.

  • Jesus

    KF your argument is full of flaws. Just like you can’t clone a human with a rabbit you can’t clone a rabbit with a cow. Therefore rabbits and cows must be the divine animals of God, right? Wrong. This study is showing that things that aren’t suppose to go together can’t go together. It doesn’t prove we are a different species, we already established that before this study! If we aren’t animals we wouldn’t have DNA in the first place to do this experiment. Physiologically we are animals. I wonder if this experimental cross cloning would be successful among apes/humans but I doubt it? Maybe humans could act as a good host for ape cloning?

  • david

    u guys are fags

  • http://www.acecombatskies.com david

    u guys are fags and homos

  • http://www.acecombatskies.com david

    …and nutjobs

  • April

    wow david…how old are you…5 maybe 6???

    you are so awesome!!! we should dedicate the entire medical database and all their scientific brilliance to finding out how amazingly intelligent and wise you are. with brains like yours we need, no we MUST preserve it.

    posting not once, or twice but three times, and all within a min. im astounded to see you were let out of your crib long enough for those witty, yet insightful comments that will now and forever totally close the whole cloning debate…enough you mad scientists…david the enlightened has spoken.

    now talking about cross cloning, i think yours was mixed in an overturned wheel barrel between a yak and albert einstein’s feces, so go run and play and be sure to get your diaper changed cause you smell something fierce and let the adults talk about big people things.

  • Ben

    Different species of animals generally cannot procreate with one another, whether they’re goats and hummingbirds or humans and cows.

  • Jay

    April… you’re funny. I applaud you for your sarcasm.

  • ClaudeA

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  • Matt

    Yes the reason that humans and rabbits cannot be spliced, is because humans are the divine creation of our lord god, and rabbits were created as the creatures that we rule over.
    This all happened around 6000 years ago when god created the entirety of the universe which, generally, remains uninvestigated. God also created the sun to provide light to the earth, and another source of light to provide light to the other side of the earth. Now as other people of the christian belief, im sure that you are happy to hear that somebody is talking about the answers.

    I am of course, being sarcastic. I find it amazing how people, even of a higher educational stature can maintain the above notion in this day and age. But of course people of religion won’t listen to anything else. This is usually due to a strict “no questions asked” upbringing were religion is concerned combined with a totally unwillingness to accept and overcome the daunting idea that there is nothing after the bodily processes stop functioning (death). Perhaps the magic humans that god created cant be hybridized with rabbits because they were created 6000 (odd?) years ago by a magic man who had nothing better to do than create a bunch of playthings… Or perhaps humans DNA is the result of millions of years of genetic evolution due to environmental factors and having a chromosomal diploid number of 46 while rabbits have only 44 makes a hybrid very difficult, although not impossible by a long shot, for scientists to complete. I know which one i choose to believe, and i know which one ignorant religious maniacs (who i can’t understand objecting to the idea that hogwarts and middle earth are somewhere in australia due to their current portfolio of beliefs) will choose to believe.

    And that… IS game.

  • God

    What a load of crap

  • http://scoobydoobydoo.com Buddah

    I cloned my frog Flippy with a toothpick, some butter, and a spoon. It turned into Godzilla! Aparrently you’re not supposed to use butter. Though a failure it was inspiring. i decided to get a gold fish, and to cut back on the butter. this experiment was a success. i had successfully cloned 16,445 gold fish in under six minutes. Unfortunatley the bathtub was full and i didn’t have enough bowls. So only about 2,500 survived. if you would like to attempt this, please see the recipe below.
    1 toothpick
    12 tubs of butter
    and about 2 or 3 spoons( depending on how big the animal you are cloning is)

  • Tom

    Seriously though, it is possible to mix science and religion. Name any part of the Bible, and I can interpret Science it it, no questions asked. Little off topic, I know, but it’s loads better than David’s comment.

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