Eleventh Hour: A State of The Art Cloning Story

By Stephen Cass | October 10, 2008 12:53 pm

Screenshot from Eleventh Hour, Episode 1×01Last night CBS premiered it’s new science-fiction detective show, Eleventh Hour, which revolves around a scientist investigating misuses of science, accompanied by his FBI minder. The first episode focused on human cloning and the show deserves big kudos for wringing out a fresh take from what has become a very hackneyed topic in science fiction. The writer and producers managed this feat by actually sticking close to today’s science: most stories that incorporate reproductive cloning introduce a successfully created clone (whether a child or an adult) and go from there. The messy details of actually creating a clone are glossed over, or not mentioned at all. Not so on Eleventh Hour.

The truth is that reproductive cloning — where the objective is to produce an living, breathing individual who is genetically identical to another — is incredible inefficient. For every clone that is successfully born, there are many others that do not come to term, or die shortly after birth. Before Dolly the Sheep, the world’s first cloned animal, was born, the researchers had 275 failed attempts, a success rate of about 0.3 per cent. Techniques have improved a little since then (the success rate also depends on the animal species to some degree, thanks to differences in embryonic development), but cloning success rates still haven’t risen above three percent or so.

So it was fitting that Eleventh Hour began its investigation with the discovery of 19 genetically identical discarded embryos that all had suffered severe developmental damage. Later, it turns out that another embryo was incinerated, leaving one remaining viable embryo in a surrogate mother. This works out to a potential success rate of just under five per cent, pretty close to the current real state of the art. However the pregnancy runs into complications, provoking a desperate search by our heroes to save lives from the unscrupulous would-be cloners. Eleventh Hour also deserves credit for seamlessly incorporating a lucid and accurate explanation of the cloning process into the episode, using a bunch of grapes as a prop (with grapes standing in for cells, and their seeds standing into for their nucleii). With such a strong start, here’s hoping Eleventh Hour survives to become a regular part of the TV line-up.

MORE ABOUT: Cloning, Eleventh Hour

Comments (7)

  1. Jessica

    Wait, isn’t that show called Fringe? :)

  2. Going out on a limb on the basis of one episode, but maybe the analogy would be that Eleventh Hour is to Fringe as Deep Impact is to Armageddon.

  3. Elmar_M

    Well, I tried to watch this, but had to stop after like 10 minutes.
    1. It is typically anti- gentic- science bull.
    2. The whole thing with women dying from being pregnant with the clones, was totally dumb, but once again went into the anti science direction (fear the evil cloning geneticists!!).
    3. The religious undertone (again anti genetic science) especially in the church scene made me cringe.
    4. So did the lead character (I think he is meant to) calling a fetus an abomination.
    Fringe is stupid, but at least not so obviously anti science.
    This show gets from me a all thumbs and my toes down.
    If you are one of those that are against stem cell research for religious reasons, I dont talk to you. You are beyond help. Go pray!
    For all that might want to be convinced that genetics are not evil go watch this:
    Thanks to the stupid laws in most countries, this girl had to go to China(!!!!) for this.
    Now go think about that show and how stupid it is in this context. Me for my part could not stand to watch it for more than a few minutes.
    Personally I have to wonder whether this show is meant to convert people to vote for republicans, since they are traditionally against this kind of science, while liberals are well more liberal about it.
    Anyway, this show is another downer. Dont watch it, if you are pro science.

  4. Elmar_M

    It depends on how you look at it. The medical conditions of the women were not realistic to be caused by them carrying out cloned babies (why?!). This is simply anti science scare.
    Yes you have a small rate of success and there are many reasons why that is so.
    One has nothing to do with cloning, but rather is that in vitro fertilization, as it has to be done in this case, also has only a reduced success rate. The success rate of in vitro fertilization is so low actually, that they usually put multiple embroyos into the uterus, just to make sure. And even then it does not always work. Now with cloning, every embryo of course requires additional work,which means less embryos and this leads to an even lower success rate. Of course there are some other effects that come into play here, that lower the successrate even more, but it is not JUST the cloning that does that. Further, once the embryo has developed past a certain stage (e.g. so far that one can actually see it an know what it is, as in the TV show). The chance of it dying is getting exponentially smaller.
    So cloning science in Eleventh Hour- > Busted!

  5. Murp

    I hope to clone myself, and have it pay off my debt.

  6. Amazing site, where did you come up with the information in this write-up? I’m happy I found it though, ill be checking back soon to see what other articles you have.


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