Tuesday, 26 July 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Fear Fuelled Objections (opinion) [Part 1]

by Zad Datu

Preceeding linked article (Read first!):
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Animal Reproductive Cloning
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Other Types of Cloning

The pen is mightier than the sword.

First there was The Boys from Brazil – a 1976 novel by Ira Levin which imaged an evil uprising made possible through cloning technology. This intriguing scale of evil even made its way into the cinema in 1978.

The story depicts an amateur Nazi hunter, Barry Kohler and a professional Nazi hunter, Ezra Lieberman tracking down a case of assassinations by the Comrades’ Organisation, an international brotherhood of old Nazis. The evil plot includes a series of assassination in progress of 94 men around Europe, Canada and United States over a period of two and a half years. All the victims were 65-year-old civil servants with positions of minor bureaucratic authority, all to be killed on specific dates instructed by Josef Rudolf Mengele (an actual historical figure who was a German SS officer in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, who was infamous for performing gruesome human experiments on camp inmates, including children, earning him the nickname Angel of Death).

Lieberman interviews three of the victims’ wives, one in Germany, another in the United States and the last in London and notices that all wives were much younger than their husbands and have teenage sons who looked identical to each other – black hair, blue eyes, pale skin and lanky body. Upon further investigation Lieberman discovers that all the three boys proved to be the result of illegal adoptions of infants from Brazil by the Comrades’ Organisation to couples all over Europe and North America who fits a description – government civil servants husbands and a wife twenty years younger.

The Angel of Death’s plot was to revive Nazi. But how are the illegal adoptions and assassinations going to do that? If you knew about Hitler’s background – that his father was a politically conservative civil servant, whom he was rebellious against due to the abusiveness and authoritarian parenting, and a mother twenty years younger than the father, and that his father died at the age of 65 when he was turning 14 – you probably would have guessed Mengele’s plot. If you didn’t know about Hitler’s background, then you would have guessed it just after reading the pervious sentence.

As indulging as the story may be, after placing the book down or walking out of the cinema, one would realise that for that moment of indulgence, it was far from reality.

Then there was In His Image: The Cloning of a Man – a 1978 non-fiction book written by a respected and credible science writer and a medical reporter for Time who even contributed articles to The New York Times, David Michael Rorvik, which reports his encounter with a wealthy unmarried man and without children, referred to as “Max”, in 1973 who was in search of a doctor to clone himself for a son with the offer of one million dollars. Rorvik agreed to assist him and found a doctor, referred to as “Darwin”. Darwin used the nuclear transfer technique similar to that used on frogs in the 60s, which proved successful on Max. The cloning was performed in a secret tropical Pacific island controlled by Max. The clone was born on December of 1976 by a surrogate mother referred to as “Sparrow”.

This book did not give the same reaction as The Boys from Brazil did once the book is placed down, as the events of this book were true. Even before its publication, the story made its way to the front page of the March 3rd 1978 publication of the New York Post announcing the first human cloning. Many believed the tale, and even his publisher was unsure. In His Image: The Cloning of a Man became a national best seller as a non-fiction title, which brought up the public’s fear on biotechnology and ethical issues towards cloning and genetic manipulation to the centre of attention.

Of course this claim is now known as a hoax, as if it were true the first human cloning would have preceded the first test tube baby – the first human in vitro fertilisation, a technology which clearly should precede and be inferior to human cloning. Rorvik and his publisher was sued for defamation by a scientist whose research was cited in the book, and was labelled “fraud and a hoax” by the court when Rorvick failed to provide concrete evidence. Rorvik’s motives for the fraud remain unclear. Some speculate that his motives were to raise awareness on the ethics of cloning.

These two books truly started the fire and stirred up the fear to question the ethics of cloning and especially human cloning, as the pen is mightier than the sword.

This fear was preceded by breakthroughs such as the deciphering of the genetic code in 1966, the isolation of DNA ligase (specific type of enzyme that repairs single-stranded discontinuities in double stranded DNA molecule) in 1967, the first isolation of gene in 1969, the isolation if restriction enzyme in 1970, the recombination of DNA molecules in 1972, and the first recombination of DNA organisms in 1973. Further more in 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled that “live, human made microorganism is patentable material” after court battles between Anada M. Chakrabarty from G.E. and Sidney A. Diamond, the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks when Chakrabarty developed a strain of oil eating microbes but was rejected a patent by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office in 1978. This ruling led to the birth of the modern biotech industry. Later the Human Genome Project (HGP) , a 13 year long international collaborative scientific research project primarily to identify all the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA, and to determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA which began on October 1st 1990 and ended on April of 2003.

Creating Life? Playing God?

The “playing god” argument for cloning is heard of all over. Proponents of the argument view reproductive cloning as creating life, hence playing god and hence immoral and unethical. Firstly, in this context, what does it mean to create life? Isn’t making babies by having sex also creating life? Life is being created through conception, isn’t it?

If what is meant by creating life is to artificially conceive a baby, then artificial insemination (AI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and artificial embryonic splitting – in this case, one more extra life than what was naturally under development – too are processes of creating life. So would be the innocuous process of artificial pollination. But artificial pollination isn’t condemned as creating life.

But if what is meant by creating life is to create life out of non-life, then the statement is completely false, although this has actually already been achieved on May of 2010 by John Craig Venter – a work which costs 15 years of research and about 40 million USD to create the chromosomes that control each cell of the bacteria from scratch, eventually creating the first synthetic life form. But don’t worry! Religious groups have already fulfilled their responsibility in taking a stance to correctly condemn this creation of life, as they always do ever since the beginning of scientific advancement to many scientific researches and newly discovered scientific facts which their mythical based beliefs just so happen to contradict. In fact, going further back in time to 1952, the first Miller-Urey experiment was conducted, which involves using natural, non-life related chemical reactions to form amino acids, “the building blocks of life”.

As for AI and IVF, the process still requires the existing building blocks of a newborn – (the DNA from) a sperm, (the DNA from) an ovum and a female to give birth to the baby. Similarly cloning requires the intended DNA for the clone, an enucleated ovum and a female to give birth to the clone. With cloning, scientists have merely found ways into the existing phenomena in the system of life to artificially reproduce asexually.

So allow me to put it straight and clear: Cloning is not creating life anymore than artificial pollination is. If to clone is to create life, so is artificial pollination.

Aside from the laboratory procedures, how cloning differs from IVF and AI is the resulting DNA of the offspring. AI and IVF will produce offspring with the combined DNA of half that of the male sperm donor and half that of the impregnated female – 1: male and female biological parents, where the female biological parent gives birth to the offspring. IVF can also produce offspring with the combined DNA of half that of the male sperm donor and half that of the female ova donor and without the DNA of the female who would give birth to the offspring – 2: male and female biological parents and a surrogate mother. On the other hand, cloning can produce offspring with the DNA of a single donor (male or female) utilising a surrogate mother, or if the donor is a female fit for pregnancy, she can give birth to the offspring herself – 3: one female biological parent giving birth to her own offspring, and 4: one male or female biological parent and a surrogate mother. Looking at these four combinations of “biological-to-birth parents” artificial reproduction, we can see that combinations “3” and “4” are just the asexual version of “1” and “2”. Unless asexual reproduction as itself is unethical, I don’t see how anyone can accept the ethics AI and IVF without accepting the ethics of human cloning – assuming that the technology is safe, that is.

IVF today doesn’t seem to have that invisible hat with the word “immoral” written on it as much as it used to – it is no longer taboo. But before 25th July, 1978, the birth of the first test tube baby, Louise Brown, IVF is seen to be as immoral as cloning is seen now. People fear such medical procedures out of ignorance and that it is just a question of breaking the taboo, the argument is.

But the truth is that there still are religious objection against IVF and AI just as there are against condoms. Their argument for this, which they also use against cloning, is mostly based on the “this is how we are meant to conceive, and not like that” logic. Or in a broader manner “according to god, this is how it should be, and not like that” – the acclaimed divine fascism of a still-to-be-discovered conscious creator of the known world.

Another argument puts forth the idea of destroying our humanity. That clone children will not be treated as humans, but rather as products and objects. Once again, this is a reminiscence of the objection against the birth of Louise Brown 33 years ago. Since then, well over a million human babies have been born healthily from IVF and none of them are treated as products and objects. Some of your friends may very well be products of IVF. You won’t even be able to make out which of your friends are test tube babies and which aren’t unless you were told so.

Actually, there is no need to go so far as AI, IVF and artificial pollination to reveal the inconsistency in the argument – we could still stay within the topic of cloning to do that. Proponents of the “creating life” argument seem to not be too bothered about artificial vegetative propagation, which is a form of reproductive cloning, but for plants. Why isn’t the “creating life, hence playing god” logic used seriously to condemn horticulture? Some less serious proponents of the argument also don’t seem to be too bothered about animal cloning as well.

Now, allow me to put this part straight and clear: Cloning is not creating life anymore than artificial vegetative reproduction is, as this ancient process of artificial vegetative reproduction itself is cloning.

Honestly speaking, the basis of the whole “playing god” argument is pretty much groundless, in my opinion as there are various versions of gods from the various groups of people, all claiming that theirs are correct and the rest are wrong. On top of that, how is the sin of creating life going to practically affect our or anyone’s lives negatively or positively?

What has consistency and practicality on why it may be immoral to clone humans, but is taken less seriously on animals and entirely not seriously on plants is the “doing harm” logic, discussed in the next section to justify how and why cloning may or may not be unethical.

Continue to [Part 2 (of 2)]...

Succeeding linked article – coming soon:
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Ethical and Legal Issues (technical) [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]
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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Other Types of Cloning

by Zad Datu

Preceeding linked article (Read first!):
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Animal Reproductive Cloning

Creating Embryos but Not Babies
October 13th 2001 – the Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts made history in cloning the first human embryo. This represented the dawn of the new age in – no, not in human cloning, but rather – in medicine. The term “cloning” is so often thought of only as reproductive cloning, or mostly animal reproductive cloning, and often even specifically human cloning. But there is a form of cloning which involves embryos without the aim to produce a fully develop individual – Therapeutic cloning.

The aim of therapeutic cloning is not to produce live organisms, but instead to extract stem cells of an individual for therapeutic and research purposes. But simply because the word cloning is included, many confused opposition of creating lab baby duplicates extend their objections into this life saving field as well.

Therapeutic cloning starts off with the same procedure as SCNT for reproductive cloning, but the embryo is not to be transferred into the womb. Instead, it is allowed to develop until a stage where the cells have divided and multiplied into about 100 cells usually 4 to 5 days after fertilisation (a stage called blastocysts for mammals, homogonous to blastula for non mammals). Found in the inner cell mass (embryoblast) of the blacstocysts, the stems cells are extracted at this stage, and then cultured to large numbers. The stem cells can be directed to specialising into any type of cell to develop into a piece of human tissue or a complete human organ for transplant. The embryo is later killed. That’s the therapeutic side of therapeutic cloning. The research side of therapeutic cloning is part of stem cell research, which eventually is for therapeutic purposes

Adult stem cells have always been available from any individual in their adulthood, but it is very rare hence difficult to cultivate. The Dolly Success opened new doors to stem cell research, as for the first time scientists are able to grow embryonic stem cells, rather than just adult stem cells, from an individual in their adulthood. This was a breakthrough for the healing potentials from stem cell research because unlike adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells can be easily cultured into large amounts, and can differentiate to develop into all types of body cells. The types of cells which adult stem cells can differentiate into are generally limited to their tissue of origin. The idea is to culture embryonic stem cells from the patients themselves into large amounts to later be reintroduced into them as a transplant. Prior to therapeutic cloning, embryonic stem cells only of a donor can be transplanted which may result in rejection by the patient’s immune system.

If research leads to the possibility of deriving nerve cells from cloned embryos, light upon finding a cure to damage cords and brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and epilepsy may shine. In fact in 2008, a research lead by Lorenz Studer, Head of the Stem Cell and Tumor Biology Laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, proved successful in using therapeutic cloning to treat a mice model of Parkinson’s disease.

Other possibilities include differentiating embryonic stem cells into blood and bone marrow cells to heal autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis; into pancreatic cells to treat diabetes; nerve cells to treat spinal cord injury; and into heart muscle cells as therapies for congestive heart failure, arrhythmias and cardiac tissue scarred by heart attacks. The possibilities seem endless.

But the technology is highly controversial resulting in bans, condemnations as well as legalisations, and also difficulty in advancing the technology to produce results. [More on these issues are discussed in depth succeeding articles.]

Cloning Since the Ancient Times
As mentioned in the previous article, Dolly was the first animal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell – not the first organism. The first cloned organism from somatic cells was a carrot plant in 1958, where F. E. Steward of Cornell University succeeded in growing a complete carrot plant from a fully differentiated carrot root cell – No, this isn’t the ancient time which the heading refers to just yet.

Also, as mentioned in the previous article, the usage of the term “clone” on animals was coined only in 1963 – not on plants. Before the 1963 coining, the term clone was mostly used for plants to a colony of organisms derived asexually from a single progenitor – but used mostly in the context of plants, as the person who coined this term was a plant physiologist of the US Department of Agriculture, Herbert John Webber in 1903. The word is derived from κλῶνος, the Greek word for “trunk, branch”.

Reproductive cloning in other words is asexual reproduction, which does occurs naturally through apomixis where embryos develops directly from the ova alone without fertilisation common in plants, insects and arthropods, and vegetative propagation (also known as vegetative reproduction, vegetative multiplication and vegetative cloning) where new individuals of plants arise without production of seeds or spore.

Flowering plants, the dominant form of plants, reproduce sexually through flowers, which consist of both male and female reproductive organ where once fertilised, the flowers form into fruits with seeds inside them. When the seed is placed in a suitable soil condition, a new individual plant will grow. But some flowering plants such dandelion, hawkweed and citrus trees can also produce seeds without fertilisation – a still poorly understood process called apomixis – hence producing offspring asexually, while other flowering plants such as strawberry plants, apple plants, potato plants, banana plants and onion plants are also capable of asexually reproduction through vegetative propagation.

Some non-flowering plants such as pine trees, ferns, mosses and algae, on the other hand, undergo a reproduction cycle called alternation generation. One generation is the gamete (sperms and ova) producing generation – the gametophyte generation. They start of their first stage of life as male or female spores in which they become individual male and female plants. The male plant produces sperms and the female plant will produces ova. As a sperm fertilises an uvum, just like sexual reproducing animals and humans, a zygote (seed) is produced growing into a new individual sporophytes – into the alternate spore producing generation – the sporophyte generation. Sporophyte asexually produces male and female spores which restart the cycle to the alternate generation. This asexual production of spores is another example of apomixis.

Other non-flowering plants such as grass and bamboo (a type of grass) reproduces only through vegetative propagation.

In technical terms the offspring reproduced asexually are clones of their parents just as twins are said to be clones of each other because of their genetics. But in general terms, when we speak of cloning, this definition is not generally accepted as nobody would, nor would any scientist credit the parents of the first born human twins as the first people to successfully clone a human or split an embryo. In fact, neither would scientist credit the first artificial embryonic splitting (also called artificial embryo twinning where an embryo is split in the maturation before it is placed into the uterus of the female to conceive to producing identical twins) as the first cloning.

Hence, the accepted term for cloning plants would be that of artificial vegetative propagation practiced in horticultures, plant tissue propagation performed in the laboratory conditions, and just recently possible artificial apomixis of plants (the cloning of plants as seeds).

The ancient times cloning spoken of here is artificial vegetative propagation practiced by the ancient Chinese which was then adapted by the Greeks and Roman which then later spread all over Europe. It includes methods such as cutting, layering, division, grafting and budding. Cutting is to cut off a part of the plant which contains at least one stem cell, either the root, stem, leaves or other parts depending on the type of plant, then placing it in a suitable soil condition which would then start rooting hence an independent new plant. In layering a part of the stem of the parent plant is placed into a suitable soil condition resulting rooting hence a new individual plant still attached to the parent plant, which is later cut off to be separated. Division is simply breaking apart the new plants which naturally grow from to the parent plant and placing it back into the soil environment. Grafting is where the upper part (scion) of one plant grows on the root system (rootstock) of another plant allowing them to grow as a single plant and budding is where a bud is taken from one plant and grown on another, both resulting in new individuals genetically identical to their parent plant which they were taken from. Vegetative propagation is exactly what the word “clone” was referred to in the first cloning and why Greek word for “trunk, branch” was used referred to.

Samples of vegetative propagated plants

Although these are generally accepted as reproductive cloning of plants, unlike the animal cloning, artificial vegetative propagation is simply the induction of natural forms of asexual reproduction – very comparable to in vitro fertilisation and artificial insemination, except that this natural form of reproduction is not asexual. But nonetheless, to artificially propagate vegetations is to produce clones.

Plant tissue culture is basically the culturing of plant tissues grown in isolation, in sterile condition and filtered air. The cultures can be initiated from almost any part of a plant, which would then slowly divide and grow into cells mostly resembling callus cells, which are undifferentiated cells that appear on damage surfaces which would gradually heal, and kept in special conditions. The original plant tissue (called explants) are usually placed on the surface of a solid or liquid medium composed of inorganic salts, organic nutrients, vitamins and plant hormones. Tissue cultured cells can also be induced to re-differentiate into whole plants by altering the growth media. Applications of plant tissue culture includes rapidly multiplying stock plants material to massively produce more plants (micropropogation), conserve rare or endangered plant species, crossing of distantly related species of plants, as well as other possibilities.

Formation of plants via plant tissue culture.

February 18th 2011 edition of the journal Science published the result of the first cloning of plants as seeds authored by scientists from UC Davis, US, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, India, and L'Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France. They experimented with Arabidopsis (a flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard) which had genetic mutations that allows it to produce ova with equal number of genes as their parents (diploid) without sexual recombination. Normally sperms and ova are haploid (having only half the genes of their parents) so that they fuse to form a diploid individual. It has just been possible just a year ago to breed haploid Arabidopsis plant carrying genes only from one parent by introducing a genetic change so that the chromosomes from one parent were eliminated after fertilisation. By crossing these two Arabidopsis plants, about one third of the seeds produced were diploid seeds from a single parent. This form of cloning is very comparable to animal cloning through nuclear transfer as these plants do not reproduce naturally in this manner. The team hopes to produce crop plants that can fertilize themselves and produce clonal seeds.

The Last Few Types of Cloning
Other than reproductive and therapeutic cloning, the term “cloning” can also referrers to the duplication of biological material, as conventionally used by biologists, for example, cellular cloning and DNA cloning (also called molecular cloning, recombinant DNA technology, or gene cloning). Cellular cloning the process of growing a colony of cells from just one cell resulting in cells of identical DNA, whereas DNA cloning is the production of multiple copies of DNA from an isolated fragment of DNA.

Aside from biology related fields, cloning is often used as a term somewhat synonymous to creating a duplicate, common in computer programmes such as image and video editing software.

Succeeding linked article – coming soon:
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Fear Fuelled Objections (opinion) [Part 1] [Part 2]
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Ethical and Legal Issues (technical) [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]
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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Animal Reproductive Cloning

by Zad Datu

Dolly the Sheep – one of the major accomplishments in biology – a celebrity in the subject of cloning, marking a spot in the calendar of the topic.

Before Dolly, the first image of cloning most would conjure upon in their minds is the science fiction model of cloning. The image of human duplicates processed through advance machines producing exact copies of a person – aside from personality, exact even to the point of their biological age, and often also knowledge and memory just as it is shown in Multiplicity (1996), The 6th Day (2000) and The Island (2005). I certainly hope that nobody nowadays still think that the actual current technology of cloning is anything like this.

With this model, the clones and the cloned will be more alike than identical twins are to each other – in actual cloning, the opposite is true. Clones are not exact copies of the cloned. Cloning is just the production of one’s twin born later in life. Natural twins are more likely to be brought up in the same lifetime, by the same parents and in the same lifestyle – unlikely in the case of clones with their clone donor – making twins more alike to each other than clones are to their clone donor. For twins and clones, the people (the bodies) are different, but their genetics (the information) are identical. Just like photocopies, the words (the information) are identical, but the papers (the bodies) are two different papers. In genetic terms, identical twins are clones of each other. But in fact, animal or human cloning will not produce a clone which is truly genetically identical to the cloned animal or human.

The usage of the term “clone” on animals was coined only in 1963. British-born Indian genetics and evolutionary biologist, John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, was credited for the coining in a speech titled Biological Possibilities for the Human Species of the Next Ten Thousand Years. It was not until then that the word “clone” has been used to describe such procedures. Before this, animal cloning was referred to as the fantastical experiment which was mentioned in Hans Spemann 1938 book titled Embryonic Development and Introduction, written over a decade before the first cloning and a decade after the first successful nuclear transfer experiment by Spemann himself.

The fantastical experiment deals with the removal of the nucleuses (enucleate) of fertilised ova (egg cells; ovum for singular) and transferring the nucleus (nuclear transfer) of cells that have specialised into specific types of cells (differentiated cells) into enucleated fertilised ova, then inserting into the wombs of a surrogate mother to give birth to live organisms. The first cloning in 1952 was exactly this, except that the cloned cells were undifferentiated embryo cells, performed on leopard king frog tadpoles by Robert William Briggs and Thomas Joseph King, both of whom at the time apparently and surprisingly weren’t aware of the fantastical experiment proposal.

Born on 5th July 1996, Dolly, a product of Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and other colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, was not the first mammal to be cloned. Neither was she the first animal to be cloned, and certainly not the first organism. The first animal to be cloned was a tadpole in 1952 as just mentioned earlier, and the first mammal to be cloned was a sheep in 1984 by Steen Willadsen, neglecting the 1979 controversial claim of the cloning of a mice. What is fascinating about Dolly is that she was the first mammal, and also considered as the first animal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, neglecting another controversial claim in 1962 of the cloning of tadpoles from adult cells. The method of cloning Dolly is called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT). Somatic cells are differentiated body cells of a multicellular organism. These are cells other than gamete (or germline – cells which fuses during reproduction such as ova and sperm), germ cells (mother cells of gametes), and undifferentiated stem cells (undifferentiated cells that can divide and differentiate into specialised cells as well self renew to produce more stem cells).

Professor Ian Willmut and Dolly

Ian Wilmut’s initial motive to clone a sheep was for a gene insertion project which he was working on, but when he heard of the 1986 cloning of cattle from differentiated embryo cells by Willdasen, he abandoned the project and switched to cloning entirely. Prior to Dolly, in 1995, he and his colleague, Keith Campbell, successfully cloned two sheep from differentiated embryo cells they named Megan and Morag. At this point, cloning is very limited as the material needed to clone an individual, the embryo, can only be obtained from the embryonic stage of the individual. The dream was to be able to clone an animal from materials available in adulthood – somatic cells. If this is to be possible, limitless number of clones can be produced.

From cloning Megan and Morag, they learnt that newly fertilised ova enters a phase of suspended animation as it coordinates the two sets of DNA, which they called Gap Zero (G0) stage. He believed and learnt that if DNA of the transplanted cell is not in the same stage of cycle as the ovum, cloning would be ineffective. To trick the cell into entering the G0 stage, they cell is starved. This would synchronise the cell’s cycles to the ovum allowing the ovum to take up the DNA of the transplanted cell. An electric current is then used to fuse the cell with the enucleated unfertilised ovum. This process proved successful on embryonic cells producing Megan and Morag, and with amazement, it was also successful on differentiated cells to produce Dolly.

Unfertilised ova were taken from Scottish black faced ewe, a different species of sheep from Dolly, then enucleated and placed next to the mammary gland cell from a Finn Doset sheep which was starved into G0 stage. Then within eight hours an electric current is used to fuse the two synchronised cells. Out of 277 mammary gland cells which underwent nuclear transfer, 29 of them developed into embryos which were placed in sheep oviducts for about a week before transferring each of them to the uteruses of Scottish blackface ewes as surrogate mothers. Only one embryo succeeded into pregnancy, and on 5th July 1996, the first animal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell was born – one species of sheep giving birth to a clone of another species.

Animals created using nuclear transfer cannot be a truly genetically identical clone of the donor animal as only the clone’s nuclear DNA is identical whereas the rest of the genetic material comes from the mitochondria in the cytoplasm of the enucleated ovum. This readdresses the issue that twins are more identical to each other than clones are to their genetic donor.

Rainbow (left) and CopyCat

There even was a case in 2001 where the first cloning of a calico cat named Rainbow resulted in what seems to be another kind of cat, a tiger tabby, named CC for CopyCat or Carbon Copy. But they were genetically identical – aside from the genetic material from the mitochondria of the ovum donor. Calico cats and tiger tabbies are actually not different breeds of cats. A cat is considered a calico cat if its fur coat consists of a mixture of either black or brown with either red or orange and with the addition of white, while considered a tabby cat if the coat features distinctive stripes, dots or swirling patterns – in the case of CC, a brown tabby and white domestic shorthair, to be exact. The genes which are responsible for the orange colouring in cats are located in the X chromosomes. Rainbow had the combinations of brown, orange and white, and is a female hence having two X chromosomes. But during embryonic development of animals (human included), one of the X chromosomes will be randomly inactivated. In the case of CC, the inactivated X chromosome was the one which was responsible for to add orange colouring to her fur coat.

Since Dolly, many farm animals such sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, horses and deer, endangered species such as the gray wolf and gaur, and even pets such as cats and dogs, as well as one of the most popular animal guinea pig, the mice have been cloned. The early efforts in of using cloning technology for practical purposes were to mass produced clones of top breed farm animals. This was initiated by Grenada Genetics in 1985 that specialise in cattle, just immediate after Willdasen became part of shortly his success in cloning the first mammal. Several other biotechnology organisations rushed into the cloning business, hence the cloning industry erupted, and since then clones cattle and other farm animals have been mass produced from via embryo cells – until Dolly, that is.

Another main purpose behind developing techniques of reproductive cloning is to aid the genetic modification techniques of animals. To genetically modify an animal, external genes are first attached to a virus then inserted into, or directly inserted into the nucleus of an early embryonic stage of the animal. But the success rate of the animal integrating the added DNA to their genome is very low. With the aid of cloning, cloned embryos of a single animal can be cultured to the thousands, thus can be used as a control making more accurate studies on the techniques, as well as increase the number of experiments which can be carried out. A single animal with the desired traits can be accurately selected to be cloned in masses with the desired genetic modification.

Sheep Polly and Molly were the first genetically modified clones – a product of Wilmut and Campbell once again at the Roslin Institute in 1997 upon the Dolly success. Polly and Molly were grown from skin cells and were genetically modified to contain human genes. The human genes inserted were blood-clotting protein in which deficiency in this protein could cause haemophilia in people. With this genetic modification, Polly’s and Molly’s milk produces the therapeutic protein for humans with haemophilia. This process of genetic engineering animals to generate therapeutic protein within marketable food product such as meat, milk and egg whites is called pharming. The success of Polly and Molly sheds light on the further possibilities of pharming, as well engineering animals to produce organs transplantable to human.

Cloning applications for personal reasons, which many are under ethical questioning, includes the reproduction of deceased pets, and the production of genetically related child for married couples who have difficulties having children of their own artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation. Artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation may not be possible way to conceive for some couples perhaps to certain level of infertility or simply because they are gay or lesbian couples. The issue owners of deceased pets is that even though they have been told that cloned pets will not produce the same exact individual original pet, they still find it preferable to have a new pet very similar to their deceased pet rather than a completely different pet even though they are of the same breed. Aside from pets, there are parents with deceased children who wishes and are willing to take the necessary steps get their child back through cloning.

This marks the end of the article, but not the end of what you should know about cloning. The next article will dive into the other types of cloning. Types of cloning which doesn’t normally occur in one’s mind when the word “cloning” is mentioned – cloning not to produce fully grown organisms, cloning which existed in the ancient times, and cloning which pretty much doesn’t involve organisms. Then, unanswered questions on cloning such as “Is cloning playing god?”, “Is cloning dangerous?”, “Has human cloning been performed?”, “Is cloning or human cloning illegal, should it be illegal, and why?” and “Why is Hitler a popular topic in cloning?” shall be addressed in one more separate article.

Succeeding linked article – coming soon:
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Other Types of Cloning
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Fear Fuelled Objections (opinion) [Part 1] [Part 2]
What Lay People Should Know about Cloning – Ethical and Legal Issues (technical) [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]
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Friday, 8 July 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Peasants or Noblemen?

by Jesse (with permission)
originally published at karatebyjesse.com
original tittle: Karate Myth Busting: The Secret Truth About Peasants and Karate
[all images in this article were taken from the original publication]

Lately I’ve been noticing a pretty interesting phenomenon unfold in the world of MMA.

You know how, a couple of years ago, it seemed like only thugs, coal mine workers, brawlers and bar fighters practiced MMA (mixed martial arts)? It was like this unsophisticated, primitive form of beating each other senseless in a cage – without any apparent technique or refinement?

(Of course it wasn’t really like that, but to many people it surely seemed like that.)

"Wanna grapple?"

Then, gradually, something interesting happened.

People who usually spent their afternoon playing golf, drinking appletinis, wearing tight jeans, getting a fake tan or greasing their hair started showing up at the doors of MMA gyms all over the world.

Snobs, you might call them.

Tired of their rich boy lifestyle – looking for a new thrill – MMA with its no-nonsense approach to gritty, mano-a-mano fighting appealed to their senses. It was rough. It was tough. And it was becoming increasingly popular.

It filled a void.

For your everyday rich-daddy playboy it provided fresh excitement  in a square world filled with predictable cocktail parties.

And that’s basically where we are today.

And I see it every day, even in our academy.

MMA is no longer a shady underground business, practiced by tattooed ex-cons. Far from it. It is a sport enjoyed by many different people, even rich youngsters. And interestingly enough, here’s where we find a largely unexplored parallel to the early beginning in the evolution of Toudi (or Karate as it was later to be known) in Okinawa.

You see, Toudi (Karate) was basically a pastime hobby of snobs.
  • No peasants.
  • No poor farmers.
  • No oppressed villagers trying desperately to fight the evil Japanese Satsuma samurai tyranny.

Aristocrats created Karate.

“Myth: a : a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon”
- Merriam-Webster/Encyclopaedia Britannica


Karate was not a martial art developed by peasants.

Let’s get that straight, once and for all. And yes, I know I’m repeating myself here, but judging from the insane amount of “Karate was developed by avenging peasants” e-mails I keep getting, some people need to hear this more than once.

Look, the high kicks of kata Gankaku were not designed so that peasants could kick under the helmets of “samurais” riding horses. The kata Kusanku Dai/Kanku Dai was not made for peasants fighting evil Japanese killer ninjas in the night. The kata Naihanchin/Tekki was not made for peasants fighting sideways battles between rice paddies.

Question: When was the last time you saw a rich, young, handsome playboy working in a friggin’ rice field?


That’s when.

(and I have yet to step my foot in one)

Because Karate wasn’t created by farmers.

It was created by noblemen and scholar.

But please, before we go any further, don’t get me wrong here. Pesants are awesome. Hunters, farmers, fishermen… my family and relatives consists of them to a high degree. They are smart, strong, kind, cool, humble, honest and remarkable in every way. But they are, above all, incredibly b-u-s-y.

Work, work work…

Fishing, hunting, farming, harvesting; the life of a farmer today is literally filled to the brim with work, from dusk till dawn.

And believe me… the last thing they want to do on their spare time is physical exercise!

Martial arts? Fuggedaboudit!

I mean, all they do on their spare time is eat and sleep a couple of hours – until it’s time to work again! Getting punched and kicked on? No way! Having cows shit on you and horses kick on you all day long is enough, thank you very much.

So, if that’s the situation today (remember, we have loads of technology when it comes to farming these days), guess what it was like a couple of hundred years ago in rural Okinawa (still the poorest prefecture in Japan!)?

That’s right.

Even busier.

Even tougher.

And I’m not saying peasants are stupid or incapable of being martial. Oh no. On the contrary, the numerous revolutions which have shaped the history of our modern world were in fact started by disgruntled workers/farmers/peasants of some sort. Probably the last person you want to piss off is a hard-working peasant, believe me. There will be blood.

But I digress.

"Oh noes! The samurai want's to steal my thong! I must quickly defend
myself, using this piece of wood, which will become a weapon in the future!
History books, here I come!"

Karate, or Toudi as it was then called, was an eclectic martial art developed, practiced and taught by aristocratic Okinawans with strong, often governmental, connections to China and Siam. Keep the peasants out of it. Sons of diplomats, frequently on scholarship, upper class, noble families descending from the Chinese settler’s village of Kume/Kuninda (in modern day Naha), bodyguards to the king, wealthy merchants (often from Shuri, where most soy and sake breweries were located = big money = big bodyguards = trouble)… the examples are numerous and paint a clear picture.

Let me repeat myself here: Your average Okinawan villager (working night and day, remember?) just didn’t have the time nor the vigor to practice fighting techniques and develop sophisticated martial arts all day long. The only people in Okinawa who did enjoy the luxury of “playing” Karate and Kobudo were the serving noble class (shizoku) of warriors (pechin), ranging from the lowest warrior caste (chikudun) to the highest (peekumi). And above that we have oyakata (lord),which is the highest of the privileged classes before we step up to the royal classes of aji (descendant of prince) and oji (prince).

These were the type of titles held by the progenitors of Karate.

To give you a quick example of how significant the caste system of Ryukyu Kingdom was, I can inform you that a pechin was roughly 6 times ‘higher’ in social status than a regular Joe Schmoe-san. Believe dat.

A prosperous and educated warrior.

A Karate-ka.

Just to add some proof to the pudding (?), here’s some of the most famous pioneers of old-school Karate along with their social class/status/rank. In no specific order:

  • Matsumura Sokon (1809-1899): Pechin class. Bodyguard of the king.
  • Sakugawa Kanga(1786-1867): Chikudun Pechin class.
  • Soeishi Ryotoku (1772-1825): Oyakata class. King’s secretary!
  • Chatan Yara (1740-1812): Chikudun Pechin class.
  • Tawata Shinboku (1814-1884): Chikudun Pechin class.
  • Sueyoshi Anyu (unknown): Pechin class.
  • Chikin Seionori (1624-unknown): Oyakata class.
  • Chinen Umikana (1797-1881): Chikudun Pechin class.
  • Higa Kanematsu (1790-1870): Pechin class.
  • Chinen Masanra (1842-1925): Chikudun Pechin class.
  • Kyan Chofu (unknown): Shizoku class.
  • Hamahiga Oyakata (1847 – unknown): Oyakata class.
  • etc…

I can keep name-dropping all day. And most of the above dudes studied the fighting arts directly in China too.

What’s that? Oh, you think that’s too far back? Not reliable and accurate enough? Want more modern masters? How about Motobu Choki (1870-1944)? Aji class (direct lineage to the king, like Chibana Choshin (1885 – 1969)). So was Yoshimura Chogi (1866-1945).

Yabu Kentsu (1866-1937)? Shizoku family. Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957)? Same. Toyama Kanken (1888-1966), Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952), Taira Shinken (1897-1970), Shiroma Shinpan (1890-1954)… they were all either directly from a noble, upper class family or descended from one back in the days.

So let’s give the peasants a break.

Because I didn’t see no farmers, fishermen, peasants, samurai slayers or rice paddy dwellers up there on the list.

Did you?

That’s right.

Because peasants have more important things to do.

Like surviving.

So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, where exactly does this “Karate was created by peasants” –myth stem from anyway? Surely there must be some base for this myth? Some substance?

Well… perhaps.

"Dude... I just had an idea. After we finish here, you wanna do some full contact sparring?"

My guess is, when the Okinawan class system was eventually abolished (during the fall of the Ryukyu Kingdom) and these aristocratic upper class people lost their position and wealth they were often forced to leave their Bugattis and Lambos behind, moving away from their grand beach mansions to live according to new (considerably lower) standards.

Consequently, either they themselves or their descendants might then have had to occasionally work as farmers, fishermen, peasants or something else equally “lower class” and dirty, giving birth to the myth that farmers and peasants magically came up with up this deadly martial art of Karate because they were so bored of work (or something). I really don’t know.

However, what I do know is that I have yet to successfully compile a list of famous Karate pioneers who were anything less than educated, well-respected and privileged noblemen.

Because that’s how it went.

Karate = snobbery.

Just like MMA is slowly becoming.

Whether you like it or not.

Related articles:
What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Karate Chops, Taekwondo and Chuck Norris
What Lay People Should Know about Martial Arts and Martial Artist – How are they Defined?
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