Mendeley Brainstorm – Send in the Clones?

Twenty years ago, the first sheep was cloned; there have been huge advances since.
Twenty years ago, the first sheep was cloned from an adult cell; there have been huge advances since.

Twenty years ago, Dolly, the first sheep cloned from an adult cell, was revealed to the world. Since then, cloning and genetic manipulation technologies have advanced considerably. Should we welcome a new era of genetic science? Or is our knowledge growing faster than our wisdom? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes April 12, 2017.

Hello, Dolly

On February 22, 1997, the Roslin Institute in Scotland announced the arrival of Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. According to the Institute, “in the week following the announcement…(we) received 3,000 phone calls from around the world”. Dolly had captured the public’s imagination about the potential of cloning, which at one point had been thought to be impossible.

Spinoffs

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine was intellectually stimulated by Dolly’s arrival. He subsequently investigated how the adult DNA which had been used to create Dolly had been revivified. The eventual result was “induced pluripotent stem cells”, which “have become a scientific workhorse, providing limitless supplies of differentiated cells and tissue for use in the lab” (Economist, 2017). They also are “an invaluable tool for modelling human diseases and screening drugs” (Economist, 2017).\

Moral Objections

Cloning technologies have always been controversial. Many ethicists and public figures have questioned whether scientists have the right to “play God” and alter the building blocks of humanity. Some countries, including the United States, have implemented restrictions on this research.

Send in the Clones?

Are these concerns overblown? Or is our knowledge growing faster than our wisdom? What is the future of cloning in your view? Tell us!

Need Funding for Your Research?

Here are some of the latest funding opportunities for biology researchers provided by Mendeley Funding:

Organisation Opportunity
Oak Ridge Associated Universities Molecular biologist research opportunity in plant viruses
University of East Anglia Cloning and expression of topoisomerase genes from Trypanosoma brucei
Developing methods for genetically encoded unnatural amino acids to develop novel proteins
National Institutes of Health Cancer and stem cells epigenetics
Ancillary studies to the NIDDK intestinal stem cell consortium
Spermatogenic stem cell culture systems to preserve and restore reproductive capacity in males
Stem cell-derived blood products for therapeutic use: Technology improvement
John Templeton Foundation Genetics – Large grant
Genetics – Small grant

About Mendeley Brainstorms

Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research.  We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.

References

Gene editing, clones and the science of making babies. (2017). The Economist. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21717035-ways-reproducing-without-sexual-intercourse-are-multiplying-history-suggests-they-should [Accessed 23 Feb. 2017].

Hello, again, Dolly. (2017). The Economist. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21717028-twenty-years-ago-world-met-first-adult-clone-sheep-called-dolly-her-legacy-lives [Accessed 23 Feb. 2017].

The Life of Dolly | Dolly the Sheep. (2017). [online] Dolly.roslin.ed.ac.uk. Available at: http://dolly.roslin.ed.ac.uk/facts/the-life-of-dolly/ [Accessed 23 Feb. 2017].

Meet Tim Keitt – Integrative Biologist and Mendeley Power User

Tim Keitt is a researcher at the University of Texas at AustinDuring a recent trip to Texas for the Non-hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells meeting, I took a little side trip to the University of Texas at Austin to meet one of Mendeley’s power users. We talked about his research, new projects he is working on and how Mendeley helps him collaborate with his colleagues in South America.

How Dr. Keitt is using Mendeley in his research

Dr. Keitt finds a great deal of value in the collaborative aspects of Mendeley, allowing him to share papers with colleagues distributed around the globe, no matter what OS they use, but he also sees a lot of value in the development of a new citation infrastructure. One application he mentioned here was correction for “citation mutation”, the process wherein a citation gets repeated in successive papers slowly accumulating transcriptional errors until it no longer can be traced back to the original work.

Insights from Integrative Biology

It was really fascinating for me to hear him talk about ecosystem patterns because one of my earliest scientific fascinations was with fractals, a type of pattern found throughout nature. While much of his earlier research involved fieldwork, he’s started doing more molecular work with the advent of better molecular tools for studying and identifying species similarity.

In this respect, large scale biological datasets have become very important to him. One project, which may lead to the creation of a HapMap-style database for non-human species, has made him particularly aware of how idiosyncratic the metadata associated with database entries can be. While having access to larger-scale data has made some scientific questions more tractable, it has also raised its own set of challenges. He gave an example here which I think is instructive for many of the issues scientists are now facing as we put more and more data online and seek effective tools for facilitating collaborations.

In the early days of sequencing, each research group would have their own database with its own structure and that worked just fine, until confusion arose regarding how to refer to a specific sequence and people started to try to merge databases to prevent duplication. We now have the GenBank as a centralized repository for sequence information and sequences can be unambiguously identified by referring to their accession number, but we didn’t get there until editors started requiring that manuscripts reporting sequences contain the Genbank accession number.

Editors forced the issue in this case, but any effort to systematize the reporting of sequences initially would have faced challenges such as who controls the repository and why should a busy researcher bother submitting to it. Repeat that last sentence again, and if you’ve followed any of the discussion about online engagement of scientists with literature, it should sound very familiar.

From Molecules to Ecosystems

Dr. Keitt got his start working in the rainforests of the Amazon where he studied species variance in one of the most diverse ecosystems on planet. Later, he came to the University of Texas where he continues to work on the effect of ecosystem patterning on species diversity. While he no longer does a great deal of fieldwork, he still collaborates with colleagues in South America for ongoing projects. He’s done some work on the Bachman Sparrow in Texas and is really excited about a upcoming project studying coral in Micronesia.

www.keittlab.org/