1. GM cow milk is on the way
2. Cloned buffalo dies
3. Guardian on GM primates and GM humans
"This is yet another step on the slippery slope to designer babies ... It is science out of control and at its most irresponsible. People should wake up to the fact that genetic engineering of people could be just around the corner." - Dr Dave King
"Experimentation on primates is particularly problematic because they are closer to us, because we know they are much more likely to suffer in similar ways to us. We should think extremely deeply before turning the clock back and increasing the number of experiments we sanction on primates." - Dr Sue Mayer
1. GM cow milk is on the way
[This could be real handy with the way that Monsanto's genetically engineered cattle drug BST has been shown to up the incidence of pus in milk.]
Friday 12th January 2001
A genetically-modified cow could soon be saving the dairy industry millions in cash.
The animal should be resistant to mastitis, an infection of the udder which leads to poor quality milk.
Researchers found and cloned the gene that kills the bacteria and used it in a Jersey cow.
It will be a year before she is mature enough to produce milk which can be tested for the infection.
The breakthrough was made at the University of Vermont. Mastitis costs dairy farmers millions of dollars every year in the US.
Dr John Bramley said the gene has already worked in mice. "Tests show that the animals are perfectly normal, their milk supply is perfectly safe and their offspring grows well," he said.
2. Cloned buffalo dies
Friday 12th January 2001
Scientists who cloned an endangered species of buffalo say it has died days after being born.
DNA from a rare Asian gaur was put inside the egg of a cow which later gave birth to it.
Scientists say their experiment is a success becasue the buffalo, named Noah, died of an unrelated infection.
Dr Philip Damiani, a researcher at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, said: "As a scientist, I am pleased. As a person, however, I am saddened that an animal died.
"In the short period of time Noah was with us, he showed himself to be a vigorous and friendly calf."
According to the BBC experts now think the technique could be used to boost the numbers of endangered species and resurrect recently extinct ones.
But conservationists say the causes of extinction should be tackled before extinct species are cloned.
3. ANDi, first GM primate. Will humans be next?
Scientists plant alien gene in monkey for first time
James Meek, science correspondent
Guardian Friday January 12, 2001
The prospect of genetically modified human beings moved a step closer yesterday with the announcement that scientists had for the first time implanted an alien gene in a monkey, a species closely related to man.
ANDi - "inserted DNA" backwards - a rhesus monkey, carries a gene which makes jellyfish glow green in almost every one of his trillions of natural cells. If he has offspring, they will also carry the gene.
The US researchers who enabled ANDi's birth are not seeking to make GM people. They are trying to create transgenic monkeys which perfectly mimic human diseases, so that ways can be found to cure them.
But rhesus monkeys and humans are so similar - they belong to the same order, the primates - that gene modification success in one is convincing evidence it would work in the other.
"We're not interested in using this technique in humans," said Anthony Chan, of the Oregon Regional Primate Research Centre, where ANDi was born on October 2. "We don't find any reason to do so. But I think there will be a lot of discussion."
Even setting aside the distant prospect of GM people, alarm was already being voiced yesterday about a future increase in experiments on transgenic monkeys.
In ANDi, the jellyfish gene was used as a trial run. "We could just as easily introduce, for example, an Alzheimer's gene, to accelerate the development of a vaccine for that disease," said Dr Chan's colleague Gerald Schatten. "We're at an extraordinary moment in the history of humans."
The easy availability of transgenic mice, modified to mimic human conditions like Alzheimer's disease and obesity, has already led to an increase in the number of animal experiments in Britain.
"Experimentation on primates is particularly problematic because they are closer to us, because we know they are much more likely to suffer in similar ways to us," said Sue Mayer, of GeneWatch UK. "We should think extremely deeply before turning the clock back and increasing the number of experiments we sanction on primates."
Last year the Oregon centre successfully cloned a monkey for the first time.
The birth of ANDi, reported in today's edition of the journal Science, leaves researchers a long way from their goal: to take a primate egg, suppress or remove an inherited gene and insert another gene in exactly the right place.
To create ANDi - who will probably now be patented - the Oregon team took 224 monkey eggs and used a modified virus to carry the jellyfish gene inside each one. The gene was then written into one of the monkey's chromosomes.
A few hours later, the eggs were fertilised with monkey sperm. A little over half developed into full-fledged embryos, and scientists implanted 40 of these in 20 surrogate monkey mothers.
Only three monkey foetuses survived to be born, and the jellyfish gene was detected in only one, christened ANDi. Even in ANDi, the gene does not seem to be producing the chemical it should, since the monkey's hair roots and toenails do not glow under fluorescent light.
Two monkeys which were stillborn did glow, however.
"Efforts to make a fluorescent green monkey are not quite a glowing success - yet," commented Science magazine. "... the cumbersome technique is not likely to lead to transgenic humans, green or otherwise."
Yet scientists point out that ANDi does represent the first evidence that primate eggs can develop normally after genetic manipulation. "Ethics considerations aside, the project might have been easier to achieve in humans, for whom IVF technology is much more advanced," the journal wrote.
Dave King, a campaigner against human genetic engineering, said yesterday: "This is yet another step on the slippery slope to designer babies ... It is science out of control and at its most irresponsible. People should wake up to the fact that genetic engineering of people could be just around the corner."
If a more reliable technique to silence and replace targeted primate genes could be developed, without the huge wastage of eggs involved, some doctors argue that human couples who carry inheritable diseases should be offered the opportunity to have GM babies.
"It all falls into the anti-cloning debate, the slippery slope, the Boys from Brazil - but I think we have to sideline that," said Simon Fishel, head of the IVF clinic at the Park Hospital, Nottingham.
"We've been striving for hundreds of thousands of years to eliminate human diseases. If we get to the stage in human development where the only way to do that is to attack the errors in our blueprint, then we have to try to attack those errors. It doesn't mean attacking God's work.
"I see this as positive research. It just can't be moved into the human dimension until we get, as best we can, a guarantee of the technology."
Dominic Wells, a reader in transgenic biology at Imperial College carrying out research into gene therapy for muscular dystrophy, said of the ANDi work: "This sort of technology would be totally forbidden in humans because of the risk of damaging human genes."
That might not always be the case, he went on. "At the moment, most of us hide behind the fact we couldn't conduct these sorts of techniques with any sort of certainty. If the technology gets to the point where you could, where we have eliminated many of the risks, we would carefully have to consider whether it was ethical or not."
He said the world was caught between trying to restrict research which could have huge medical benefits and allowing transgenic technology to fall into unscrupulous hands.
"Either we risk delaying medically important technologies, or we risk entering Brave New World," he said.
Dr Mayer argued that interfering in human DNA at the egg stage would never be acceptable. "You would be experimenting on babies and the mothers who carry them.
"All the animal work that goes on at the moment involves huge failure rates and huge suffering. I don't think we could even contemplate that with babies. The downside might not come out in the first generation but in the second or later."