A biotechnological thriller explores the lives of a man and woman who, with the help of a team of scientists, risk everything to save their child’s life.
“Noah has…ALD.” Those words, told to Susan and Elliot Gaynor, irrevocably change their lives. ALD, a rare disease that will completely erode their 2-year-old son’s “ability to function on the most basic human level” within a few years, is a death sentence. But they regain hope when they see a televised announcement from Dr. James Eastman, founder of the LAB, or Life Aided through Biotechnology. Eastman reveals that his group has made a breakthrough in the field of therapeutic cloning: they have succeeded in cloning human embryonic stem cells. These cells are remarkable in their ability to “treat everything from spinal cord injury to burns, to disease such as cancer, Parkinson’s, and even in organ replacement.” The Gaynors wonder whether those same cells could help save their son’s life. Unfortunately, there exists a chasm of confusion between reproductive cloning, where an entire organism, animal, or person is cloned, and therapeutic cloning, where healthy, young cells grown from patients’ DNA can repair or replace their old or diseased cells. The startling announcement sparks a nationwide controversy, resulting in questions about morals, ethics, and even the definition of life itself. While the Gaynors work with Eastman’s group, the debate pulls in everyone from laypeople to high-ranking politicians—and some have deadly intentions. Throughout, Ross (Pet Loss and Human Emotion, 2007, etc.) thoroughly explains the medical and scientific details involved in therapeutic cloning, although a reader may feel a bit overwhelmed by technical jargon when encountering such sentences as “It consists of cells called blastomeres in a solid ball contained within the zona pecullucida.” Still, the author balances the science with a keen, realistic account of the experiences, worries, and fears of Susan and Elliot, both as parents and as a married couple. The narrative is not chock-full of thrills. And some readers may be dubious that the antagonist, an Indiana farmer suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, could manage to concoct such a devious and well-planned plot to foil the LAB’s research. But Ross expertly examines the differing reactions to the idea of cloning as well as the ways governments can affect, sometimes adversely, significant scientific studies.
A complex novel about
cloning that offers a timely, intelligent look at groundbreaking medical