Kirkus Reviews QR Code
CLONE by Gina Kolata

CLONE

The Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead

By Gina Kolata

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-688-15692-4
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

 Not a quickie to exploit the news sensation of the year, Kolata's review of the before-during-and-aftermath of the cloning of a Scottish sheep is a well-researched account of critical events in the history of embryology and developmental biology. The feat was remarkable because Dolly was born from an egg whose nucleus had been replaced by the nucleus taken from the udder cell of an adult sheep. It was Kolata who broke the story in the New York Times last spring, swelling a media frenzy that led to public fear, congressional action, and bioethicist pronouncements, all the while elevating a modest Ian Wilmut to world-celebrity status. Yet only a year earlier Wilmut and his partner, Keith Campbell, had published an account of the birth of identical twin sheep-clones developed from late embryo cells that had already differentiated into something akin to skin cells. Why didn't that stun the readers of the august journal Nature? Here Kolata is on target in describing the trendiness and elitism of science: Molecular biologists and gene theorists, with their knockout mice and gene-of-the-week discoveries, pay scant heed to veterinarians pursuing commercial ends. In Wilmut's case those ends involved the potential for making animal clones that might carry useful human genes whose products--such as insulin--might be secreted in sheep breast milk. Also, the consensus was that there was a species barrier and that cloning of mammals was impossible. How that consensus came about is in itself a fascinating story of early pioneers interspersed with scandal, suspicions of fraud, and out-and-out contempt for the 1978 book In His Image, which purported to be the story of the cloning of a man. Kolata concludes with a thoughtful chapter on the ethical issues: At this stage there is no easy answer to where the line should be drawn in cloning experiments. All the more reason the book should appeal to readers who want to learn the facts and think for themselves. (Author tour)