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"Genetic Tampering" [Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post]

Washington Post
Publication Date
  • Biology
  • Political Science


BIOLOGY AND politics are bridged at many places,, but few connections are more salient than that be- tween reproduction and sex. This gives an unpredictable variety to each generation. Every new individual gets a gambler’s sample of half the genes of each of his par- ents. The pretensions of hereditary aristocracy are then nercnnially refuted by the dice. throws of genetic recombination by which ev- egg Fgmcd. and sperm are We do recognize’ some ex- ceptional examples of vegeta- tive reproduction among higher animals, and even man. For example, identical t\vins occur when the origi- .nal fertilized egg undergoes one cycle of vegetative divi- sion before settling down to the business of embryonic development. A twin pair is then a familiar example of a “clone,” a term borrowed from botany for a family of vegetatively related individ- uals, literally a set of cut- tings from a given source. Except for twin births, we must look to lower animals for most common examples of clones. An earthworm can be cut into several segments, each on2 capable of regener- ating into an intact worm. These new animals are gen- elicaily identical and thus together constitute a clone. Examples of parthcnogene- sis might be clones or not, depending on how the egg is formed and activated. Dr. M. W. Olsen’s parthenogenetic turkeys’ are not c!onal but result from a nuclear fusion within the egg after some some genetic assortment has occurred. Thus they hatch out into male birds. PjEN POSSIBILITIES of clonal reproduction h a v e arisen as a byproduct of ex- periments on nuclear changes during development of frogs and toads. Drs. Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King of Philadelphia’s Institute for Cancer Research started re- nucleating frog eggs about 15 years ago. After the egg was fertilized in the usual way, the fusion nucleus was removed. Lack- ing any genetic information, such a denucleated egg would not develop at all. Howe

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