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Irradiating Ourselves

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
Publication Date
  • Environews: Forum
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


aQfl CWirone The instinctive human fear of radioactivity is not irrational ... it is also so universal and so enduring that it is a political fact of life. Peter Pringle and James Spigelman The Nuclear Barons, 1981 Forum Of Mice and Humans Japanese scientists have, for the first time, successfully introduced an intact human chromosome into mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. This advance, reported in the June 1997 issue of Nature Genetics, may make possible medical treatments that are now technically difficult or impossible, and may allow for studies of the function of genes in their native genetic environment. Kazuma Tomizuka of the Central Laboratories for Key Technology at Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd., in Yokohama, Japan, and nine coauthors described how intact human chromosomes were trans- ferred into the ES cells through a process called microcell-mediated chromosome transfer (MMCT) and used to produce chimeric mice. The group introduced chromosome 2, 14, or 22 individually into mice. Chromosomes 14 and 22 remained separate and intact, retaining all the genetic informa- tion normally contained in those chromo- somes. A fragment of chromosome 2 not only remained stable and separate in the genome, but also was passed through the germline to four generations of descendants, showing that the fragment can successfully move through the normal cellular processes of mitosis and meiosis in the mouse cells. The Japanese scientists chose chromo- somes 2, 14, and 22 because these chromo- somes contain the genes necessary to pro- duce the heavy and light peptide chains that make up human antibodies. They hoped to produce antibodies that would contain only human proteins, without any proteins of mouse origin. Previous studies have trans- ferred genes to produce human antibodies in mice but, because insufficient genetic material was transferred, the antibodies were created from the genes of both mice and humans. Such antibodies would there- fore contain proteins derived from mice as well as humans and,

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