two mice are the offspring of the first mammals ever to be
doesn't mean they were covered in black shiny plastic and
made into a pair of shoes!
the mice legally belong to a specific person or company and
if any body else wants to use them they have to pay money
and/or ask the owners for the rights to them.
created using genetic engineering by two Harvard Medical School
scientists; Philip Leder and Timothy A. Stewart. They received
their US government "mice" patent on April 12, 1988
and the controversial patent caused major quakes across the
they engineered were transgenic oncomice. They had at least
one additional gene artificially inserted into their own natural
DNA. The gene could have come from a chicken,
a monkey or
even a human!
the gene inserted was a highly active oncogene sequence that
would cause a high percentage of the mice to develop cancerous
tumours. Also, any offspring these mice had would also inherit
this tumour inducing oncogene. This made the mice and their
offspring ideal for testing possible promoting agents of cancer
such as sunlight exposure or poor diet and for trialing anti-cancer
all the fuss? Surely everyone would be pleased that the hard
working scientists would get their just rewards for pioneering
work in the fight against cancer? Why all the controversy
over a few mice?
in reality, a company called DuPont funded most of
Leder and Stewart's work. They legally owned the license to
the oncomice, selling them to research institutes around the
world. And, more importantly, this patent was seen as the
starting gun for geneticists to legally create any transgenic
animals they wanted to and be backed by government patents.
rights groups object strongly to the use of animals in this
way. Insertion of the genes is not precise and may result
in lethal mutations or gross physical abnormalities. Religious
groups are quick to point out how unnatural the new genetic
processes are. Patents are allowing us to produce transgenic
animals with no thoughts for the possible future consequences.
of genetic exploration has been frantic since 1988 and we
now have several thousand plant and animal transgenic patents.
We now have Dolly, the first cloned and patented sheep ,
Polly; the first patented lamb and also a cloned and patented
it really only one small step to our first cloned and patented
human being released on the world?
Clinton banned the use of federal funds for "morally
unacceptable" human cloning in 1997 and proposed a bill
banning human cloning. However, this bill would also ban research
into foetal development which many see as important. Thus,
it is difficult to know where to draw the line and controversy
and debate continues throughout the world.
two little mice to "Hello Polly" the Biotechnology
war still rages and looks set to get uglier!