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Friday, May 20, 2005

Send in the Clones 

Korean scientists announced yesterday that they have made a huge breakthrough in cloning and stem-cell technology. The research is really unbelievably cool - for starters, they've made leaps and bounds in improving the nuclear-transfer technique they described just last year.

The usual suspects will I'm sure decry this research as unethical and scream about killing blastocysts (the vast majority of which are, if my memory serves, lost long before a woman even knows she's pregnant), but then they will of course still happily benefit from the improved health and quality of life such research brings.

That is why this work was done in Korea, not the US, and why the US is beginning to really fall behind the rest of the world in bioscience. While the Preznit blathers on about "culture of life" (insert awful pun about cellular research here), tying up scientific endeavors with pseudo-religious nonsense, others move ahead. We'll benefit from the technology Korea develops - they're always happy to sell us their goods - but that's just it, we'll have to buy it. Knowledge and expertise is the only thing the US has left to export.

I'm not at all suggesting that ethical concerns should not be raised, but these days the real noise about ethics only comes from politicians, which is the last place it should be.

But the US is not without its own innovations. Cornell researchers continue to refine their instruments, and now have developed a way to measure the mass of a single DNA molecule - 995,000 Daltons. That's just over 1 attogram, which is 10-18 grams, or approximately 2.2x10-21 pounds. I do not want to know how many attograms I weigh.

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