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Will Cloning Feed the Planet?

When a Scottish biological research team headed by Dr. Ian Wilmut introduced a seven-month old Finn-Dorset lamb named Dolly to the world, long-standing barriers in science disappeared and long dormant ethical questions rose in their place. Dolly represented the first successful cloning of an adult mammal and signaled a major breakthrough in the possibility of someday being able to clone a human being. As the initial furor over the experiment begins to die down, the scope of the pressing medical and philosophical implications continues to expand.

Wilmut is a member of the Roslin Institute. He earned his Ph.D. from Cambridge University on the topic of freezing boar semen and did post-doctoral research on frozen embryos. The research leading up to Dolly's cloning stemmed from efforts to genetically engineer sheep and cows so that their milk would contain human proteins with medical properties. Engineering each individual animal, however, would prove too arduous and expensive. Engineering one animal and then cloning it would be much more efficient.

Previous studies, unfortunately, showed that a mature mammal's genetic material could no longer grow and divide. Dr. Wilmut and his team overcame that limitation with the discovery that if a cell's DNA was rendered temporarily dormant and then implanted into an egg, the egg's nutrients would kick-start the cell's DNA into developing a new organism. The birth of Dolly proved their theory and stunned the world.

The controversy over the future possibilities of cloning humans has government and scholarly institutions scrambling to put ethical guidelines on cloning research into place. Wilmut, though, possesses enough confidence in his fellow researchers to ease any worries. "We all have concerns about this research being misused, but I don't have any sleepless nights. I believe we are a moral species."

Wilmut tackles the question of the ethics of cloning in his presentation. He also outlines the future of research in the field, previewing the incredible advances predicted to follow in pharmacology, genetics, husbandry, and agriculture. Using exclusive video of the Dolly Experiment, Wilmut offers his audience a peek into a future that only a short while ago was considered science fiction. Wilmut's appearance at CMC is cosponsored by the Dean of Faculty at CMC, the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, and the Keck Graduate Institute for Applied Life Sciences. The dinner at the Athenaeum is for members of the CMC community only. The public is invited to the address at 6:45 p.m. and overflow seating will be accommodated in McKenna Auditorium with live, remote broadcast.