Frozen in time – thaw me out: a 2008 Breakthrough

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We probably have all watched or read some sci-fi movie where either animals (e.g. Jurassic Park) or humans (e.g. Austin Powers) are brought back to life after being dead and frozen for a considerable time.

Welcome to our apparent every accelerated rate of change in our modern world, as a group of Japanese researchers (Wakayama et. al., 2008: PNAS Nov. 2008) recently cloned a mouse from dead tissue that was frozen for 16 years. In fact the researchers are now talking about at least the potential possibility of bringing back Woolly-mammoths to life from the frozen tundra.

It wasn’t that long ago when just cloning an animal felt sci-fi like (Dolly 1996), but all previous cloning was done from tissue collected from live animals, or carefully preserved cells. In this case the tissue was not from live animals or carefully preserved cells, but instead the tissue came from a mouse frozen without any cryopreservation (basically the entire carcass was chucked into a minus 80 freezer). (for a good blog on cryonics check out depressed metabolism).

Teruhiko Wakayama, the lead scientist on this project, was able to rescue intact nuclei from long dead neurons from a whole mouse body that had been in the ‘freezer’ for 16 years. The salvaged nuclei were then inserted into living unfertilized mice eggs, which formed an embryo that further developed embryonic stem cells. The collected stem cells were then used to produce healthy mouse pups.

Quite the breakthrough – cloning animals from non-currently-living cells – without any cryopreservation – wow!

Now of course there was discussion regarding the resurrection of long extinct animals such as the Wooly-mammoth, since the its complete genome was recently sequenced. However, maybe all of this are simply a diversionary smokescreen so the subject of cloning long dead humans doesn’t get brought up. Yes, we are told that human cloning is ‘far’ more difficult than other mammals (though I haven’t really read the biological explanation).

But no use shying away from the reality – it will happen – tissue from a frozen human will be cloned the only question is when – and who ?

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