Cloned Cat
January 21, 2003 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Cloned Cat Doesn't look and behave like the original cat.Public perception of cloning is clone=original, but we have the proof it isn't always true. Isn't that the proof complex systems doesn't always work like we want, so it'd better to slow down the marketing of genetic engineered food ?
posted by elpapacito (48 comments total)
...we have the proof it isn't always true.

Duh. Twins.
posted by Ayn Marx at 5:20 PM on January 21, 2003

This is a great line from Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society:

"There are millions of cats in shelters and with rescue groups that need homes, and the last thing we need is a new production strategy for cats." [emphasis mine]

Don't ask me why, but I laughed for 5 minutes.
posted by botono9 at 5:26 PM on January 21, 2003

Wow, you mean all of my thoughts and experiences arent pre-programmed into my DNA?

posted by Satapher at 5:27 PM on January 21, 2003

Public perception is that Super Unleaded gas is an improvement over Regular Unleaded gas, but we have proof that this isn't always true. So we'd better call off the war on Iraq.

(What I'm saying is, your connection of cloning to gm foods makes no sense, please supply more information)
posted by Stan Chin at 5:34 PM on January 21, 2003

"so it'd better to slow down the marketing of genetic engineered food ?"

I'd wager that you would be hard pressed to name a food that people eat that hasn't been in some fashion genetically engineered. The genetic manipulation of our food is as old as agriculture. However, I don't mean to suggest that current genetic manipulation shouldn't keep a vigilant eye for public safety. (isn't this the case with anything, especially science, though)

"the proof complex systems doesn't always work like we want"

This cat does not prove this statement. Unless you mean that it's proof that the public-perception of cloning and the development of complex organic systems is flawed. Or proof that the public doesn't get what they wanted from cloned cats.

"Experts say environment is as important as genes in determining a cat's personality."--Yahoo! News
posted by BlueWolf at 5:40 PM on January 21, 2003

Stan Chin: Troll. You suggest that, given that public perception on the benefits given by two different kind of fuels may be faulty, then we should call off the war on Iraq.

You didn't prove why and how public perception on fuel is related to a war, as it doesn't seem like that the quality of the fuel is related to the opportunity of not going to war.

Forgiving the troll, I'll say that

a) we assume we can clone DNA, so that by cloning DNA we can replicate exactly the same system as many times as we want, like in a production line.

b) we can safely assume a cat is a system represented by some string of DNA, as well as a plant.

c) our target is to engineer a plant/animal that has some particular quality (more resistent to pests/disease) we consider desiderable

d) once the desiderable plant/animal is produced, we want to mass produce it , and we want it to always have the same desiderable quality

But given that mutation occurs naturally, we should clone over and over the same desiderable DNA in order to obtain the same desiderable product.

But apparently it isn't so easy. Given that the scientist were not able to predict that the cloned cat was going to be different from the original cat, it is safe to assume (and probably proved) the same happens for cloned plants.

Given that the outcome of a cloning isn't always predictable, why should we market a product that could have unpredictable effects on our health ? It's not like we don't have already a source of food and we need to rush. Expecially, I don't see why we should rush the SALE of a genetically engineered food, when experience suggests the outcome of long term exposure to genetically altered food is unpredictable.

In other words, we don't even know how to make a perfect copy, how can we know that the next production of food will have exactly the same qualities ? We should check each and every plant, but that's evidently too expensive. And we're messing with DNA here.
posted by elpapacito at 5:59 PM on January 21, 2003

DNA =\= Organism in the same way that plans =\= house.

I have identical twin brothers. One is shy, reserved, humorous. The other is outgoing, gregarious and boisterous. They have slightly different hair colour and wear different size shoes (8E vs 9A).

DNA does not contain enough information to describe every cell, let alone every behaviour of every cell. It certainly does not appear to describe connections in the brain or the chemical weighting given to the various pathways. In that same way that no two cakes are alike, or no two houses exactly the same, cloned organisms (like twins or triplets) are not absolutely identical. That doesn't stop us from baking cakes or building houses.

That said, the technical difficulties currently faced in cloning makes cloning humans morally reprehensible. Tomorrow, however, is a different day.
posted by bonehead at 6:20 PM on January 21, 2003

Bluewolf: I was referring to public perception of cloning. The system known,afaik, to public is that one can somehow extract DNA from a system (animal/plant) and replicate the original system from that DNA sample. In other words, one could obtain a perfect copy of the original if the DNA sample completely represents the original system.

Some of the quality of the cat (fur color, behavior) apparently aren't replicated by this experiment of cloning.

One could argue that , given that cat1 is not the same as cat2, then the cloning system doesn't work. There must be something inside the cloning system (or outside it, influencing it) that made the cat fur different.

Problem is : we want the same qualities to show in consecutive clonings of the same DNA. If for instance we find a way to make grain more resistant to diseases, we probably would like to have this quality forever present in the future generations of that engineered grain. Given that the cloning system seems not work always in a predictable way (the two different cats), it is safe to assume same may happen to plants cloning system. We could easily spot the difference between two cats, but how easy is to spot the aberration in tons of engineered grain ? And what could the effects of aberration be on human health ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:25 PM on January 21, 2003

I'm not a troll. Just stupid.
posted by Stan Chin at 6:32 PM on January 21, 2003

The two cats are genetically identical, the only difference is the way the calico coloring is expressed. Tortoiseshell and calico coloring generally appears only in female cats, it's on the X chromosome, only one of which is expressed in a given cell, so the cells with the one X expressed are one color and the one with the other X expressed are another, which means that having identical DNA cannot produce identical calico markings.

So they've succeeded in cloning the cat, but aspects not directly controlled are different. This is a failure how?
posted by dagnyscott at 6:41 PM on January 21, 2003

Bonehead: The way is the same, but the effects are different. You could build to different houses using the same blueprint, and they're unlikely to be exactly equal. They may appear to be so, but an accurate examination will reveal that, maybe, somebody left one milligram of concrete out of the structure of one of the two houses, so making them different.

The difference may be minimal, but is still present. The effect of the difference on the house owners may not be experienced in a thousand years, or maybe tomorrow. We know by experience that such a difference is , probably, not worth our attention and we keep on making houses that way.

The keywords are experience and time. We have little in the fields of genetic manipulation and cloning, yet we seem GM foods in the market probably because the initial investment in GM needs to show some returns. But while one could relatively easily spot an error in a cake or an house, one probably can't so easily tell GM grain from not-GM grain, or undesiderable errors in GM food.
posted by elpapacito at 6:42 PM on January 21, 2003

Dangyscott: The aspects not directly controlled are the ones I was looking for. I blame my own ignorance for not being able to tell if you're pushing true or false information to me, but I'll take a risk and assume you're right. I'll later do some research for my own good, I also thank you for pointing out this aspect of DNA cloning.

The failure is on the quality of cats. They're genetically the same as you say, fine. But as you point out, there are aspects of the quality (fur color) out of direct control. So that cloning DNA, and having two animals with the same DNA, isn't enough to have the same qualities on the two animals.

That is enough to say DNA cloning doesn't always clone the qualities of two cats. Does DNA cloning always clone the qualities found in a engineered plant ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:55 PM on January 21, 2003

Dagnyscott hit the cute & fluffy nail square on the head. Females have two X chromosomes, but they can only use one per cell. The techiminicial term for the inactive chromosome is a "Barr Body" (not that you care, or anything). In some cells mommy's X might be inactive, and in others it'll be daddy's X. This process is, of course, entirely random.
posted by LimePi at 6:56 PM on January 21, 2003

Wait a minute. If this thread is only for discussing genetically modified food, where do we go to discuss the cloned kitty?

Also see Threads, Moderation of.
posted by yhbc at 6:58 PM on January 21, 2003

yhbc: read above, the two things are connected. Also see Messages, Reading of.
posted by elpapacito at 7:10 PM on January 21, 2003

Wow LimePi, I thank you for that link. I never had any idea. The fact that all but the 18 shared genes are inactivated is fascinating. It really demonstrates the complexity of the whole reproductive system.
posted by betaray at 7:11 PM on January 21, 2003

Thanks for the link LimePi, interesting.
posted by elpapacito at 7:15 PM on January 21, 2003

That is enough to say DNA cloning doesn't always clone the qualities of two cats.

Certainly not the qualities that aren't wholly determined by genetics. Calico patterns aren't deterministically genetic, so there's no reason to expect Cc to be identical to Rainbow any more than you'd expect a clone of Socrates to speak Attic Greek.

Does DNA cloning always clone the qualities found in a engineered plant ?

People aren't engineering organisms to produce calico cats of a particular pattern. They want critters that produce new proteins, or that crap insulin, or whatever. I think it's safe to say that Cc's body is functionally identical, biochemically, to Rainbow's (or at least as near identical as could be given two different prenatal environments, which also have a big say in how an embryo develops). It's not like Cc eats wrong-handed sugars or photosynthesizes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:16 PM on January 21, 2003

ughh... I hate copy cats...

(sorry I just noticed no one had said it yet.)
posted by KnitWit at 7:25 PM on January 21, 2003

Given that the scientist were not able to predict that the cloned cat was going to be different from the original cat

That's not given. Nowhere in the article is there even a hint that Cc being visibly or behaviorally distinct from Rainbow was a surprise to the lab.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:30 PM on January 21, 2003

elpapacito, quit with the moderating already.

I'm not seeing any evidence of "failure" here. Just because there's a public perception that clone=carbon copy (hee), that doesn't mean that the participating scientists don't have things well in hand.

Also, connecting this to genetic engineering of food is pretty thin. If that's the topic that you wanted to discuss, maybe you could have included a link?

On preview: Damn it. Everything that ROU said.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:34 PM on January 21, 2003

Dammit, now I want a cat that photosynthesizes wrong-handed sugars. A bright green beastie with luxuriant foliage for fur.

Ch-ch-ch-Chia! Chia Cat!

And if you clipped its delicious grassy fur for salad, it would even be low in calories!

Mmm.... chia fur.....
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:38 PM on January 21, 2003

RouXeno: Excellent ! In fact I don't care about Calico patterns as much as somebody else may, because they seem irrelevant to me (maybe not to the cat, but don't tell PETA we don't really care).

Certainly not the qualities that aren't wholly determined by genetics Excellent as well. That's what I'd like to hear , not the usual "this grain contains a gene coming from a pig, how evil ! " you can read or hear somewhere.

This seems enough to confirm an idea: cloning only clones the qualities determined by genetics. If some quality is desiderable, but not determined by genetics, bad luck.Then we should find out (by research, a lot of it) which qualities are determined by genetics, which not. And that's what many researchers are working on now, afaik.

Then we should find out which aberrations/mutations are likely to happen in a GM organism (more research) and if they're dangerous. If so, scrap the GM organism and redo from start (more research)

While we're at it, let's slap a nice big label with "WORK IN PROGRESS" on the GM stuffs avaiable on the market, while we're at it. I can hear the screams coming from the marketing dept, but I don't care.
posted by elpapacito at 7:39 PM on January 21, 2003

Misscranky: flame off please :) that doesn't mean that the participating scientists don't have things well in hand You haven't proved that as well :) Oh and I'm not moderating anything, did I delete your post ?
posted by elpapacito at 7:41 PM on January 21, 2003

Rouxeno: ok ok not Given. Why the name Carbon Copy ? Oh ok there's no proof the name was given by the scientists as well.I second your salad cat, but don't tell PETA :)
posted by elpapacito at 7:44 PM on January 21, 2003

cloning only clones the qualities determined by genetics.

And this is different from traditional reproduction (and thereby only relevant to GMO) how?
posted by biscotti at 7:49 PM on January 21, 2003

Stephen King is a genius.

(Think Pet Cemetery.)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:49 PM on January 21, 2003

elpapacito, if you think that was flaming, I can't imagine how you make it through the day without bursting into tears. You have now made 9 out of 27 comments, which seems to indicate that you are less interested in starting a discussion than running one.

Also, I don't have to prove anything. I'm not making an assertion -- you are. You're trying to connect a Yahoo! News story to something only tangentially related, and doing it with a few quantum leaps of logic.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:52 PM on January 21, 2003

Oh! There's also mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria are like little cells within larger cells, and they make lotsa energy for cells in a symbiotic sorta fashion. Both sperm and eggs have mitochondria, but when they fuse to form a zygote, the sperm's mitochondria get tagged for disposal.

Since cloned animals use donor egg cells filled with the creature's own chromosomes, but not mitochondria, there've been some problems noted.
posted by LimePi at 7:53 PM on January 21, 2003

If some quality is desiderable, but not determined by genetics, bad luck.

Yeah, unless you can grow them from a single cell in a controlled environment so they all develop the 'right' way.

Then we should find out (by research, a lot of it) which qualities are determined by genetics, which not.

Just about all of the work that I'm aware of (not being a cloner, gene-fiddler, or biologist) has been about getting organisms to produce chemicals that they otherwise would not. This sort of thing is going to be determined almost completely by genetics -- assemblers cozy up to the DNA strand and build the protein that it tells them to. This is a lot more predictable than complex interactive stuff like behaviors.

As to the name, people there probably thought it was cute. I can't imagine that a whole raft of PhD bio types knows less about feline genetics than *I* do, and I knew that calico patterns weren't deterministic.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:55 PM on January 21, 2003

Is it an *evil* twin cat?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:58 PM on January 21, 2003

LimePI, thanks for the great, relevant links!
posted by qbert72 at 8:13 PM on January 21, 2003

See Meta, talking about.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:58 PM on January 21, 2003

If two organisms with exactly the same genome don't turn out the way they are expected to just imagine all the crazy things that could be produced when the genes are mixed and matched randomly as in sexual reproduction. Perhaps we should worry about that as well.

Also, it does not make sense to me that a gene that was inserted into an organism would mutate at a rate any different than all of the genes that were in the thing all along. It's not as though there is any structural difference between DNA that has been spliced in and original DNA.

It also doesn't seem like that gene, if it did mutate, would be any more likely than an original gene to turn into something harmful, so, for what it's worth, I don't see the lack of control over gene expression as something that could cause a major problem down the road if we genetically modify crops.
posted by guyincognito at 9:11 PM on January 21, 2003

Cc's variance was not a surprise even a year ago. More info here and here. Also, cloning an animal step-by-step in pictures.

Who's a cute fuzzy wuzzy!

Truly an abomination of science! Is mankind forever doomed to create such horrors!?!
posted by moonbiter at 9:20 PM on January 21, 2003

It all fits if you are willing to admit that Cats are the other white meat.
posted by Mack Twain at 10:00 PM on January 21, 2003

Call me naive, but I'm wondering about the actual applications of cloning. At the moment, it seems to be a more expensive, more complicated, less successful variant of in vitro fertilization, with the only added benefit being identical genes. You still start at the embryo level, and need a surrogate mother, birth, growth and all that (thanks moonbiter for the nice slideshow). And once the cute little fuzzy thing is born, nurture makes sure it is unique. I fail to see how Multiplicity or Attack of the Clones is going to happen anytime soon.

On the other hand, genetic engineering, although ethically debatable and as with all scientific research, not without danger, can have clear, positive, near term applications: "better" crops and cattle, hybrid organisms producing proteins useful in medecine, etc.

I'm wondering why "simple" cloning gets so much publicity. Where's the killer app?
posted by qbert72 at 10:51 PM on January 21, 2003

Does one of the cats have a goatee and wear a yellow sash? If that's the kind of cat we're talking about then I wants one. It is... precious to me.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:12 PM on January 21, 2003

b) we can safely assume a cat is a system represented by some string of DNA, as well as a plant.

A cat is not a plant.
posted by spazzm at 11:47 PM on January 21, 2003

qubert- "Simple" cloning gets publicity because, frankly, people are willfully ignorant (if not outright stupid, but I'd rather not think that) and easily misled. Crazy French racecar drivers and Boys From Brazil-type scenarios have effectively drowned out any sort of meaningful discourse on cloning.

There are several "killer app[s]" based upon cloning humans, though. Limbs can become amputated, organs can become diseased, spinal columns can be crushed. An ideal way to cure such problems is to rebuild the damaged area with living cells. And, theoretically, the best cells for the job would be one's own.

We're figuring out how to make the cells we get from aborted fetii or zygotes left over from shotgun-style fertility treatment, those undifferentiated ones also known as "stem cells," turn into cells with specific purposes, like neurons or kidney cells.

Except, someone else's stem cells aren't nearly as useful as those with one's own DNA, which virtually guarantees that the new stuff won't be rejected, as is common in today's organ transplants. In order to make the really useful personalized stem cells, cloning is a virtual imperative.

Of course, there's also the PLIF-like horror scenario, where we grow complete clones of ourselves just for spare parts, and kill clones of ourselves. I doubt that this will ever become a reality--we'll probably learn how to grow individual body parts from single cells, in vitro (or in engineered pigs), before we come close to perfecting human cloning. Another possibility is that the stem cells, in certain cases, could be injected directly into the problematic region and repair (or at least patch up) the damage on-site.

And without cloning this could never be possible
posted by LimePi at 11:53 PM on January 21, 2003

qbert72: I'm wondering why "simple" cloning gets so much publicity. Where's the killer app?

I suspect it's simply that of all the biotech innovations of the past 25 years, "simple" reproductive cloning is the easiest to visualize and it most captures the public imagination. Far easier to show ten Michael Keatons -- all 45 years old and sporting the same haircut -- on a movie poster than to show one MK harboring a subtly altered protein.

One killer app is in the mass-production of valuable GMed organisms; if I spend $20M to create an organism that produces a fancy protein, it sure would be nice if I could reliably create another one without spending another $20M. Reproductive cloning in this case is critical to scaling up for commercialization.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 11:57 PM on January 21, 2003

dagnyscott - i thought the colouring was different because this kind of patterning is decided not so much by particular chromosones, but by the "chemical soup" in which the animal develops. turing (the computer guy) did a lot of early work on this kind of system, and there's some basic detail here. while this doesn't mean that genes aren't important, dynamic systems like this are very sensitive to "boundary conditions" (the butterfly effect), so the exact outcome will depend on not just genes, but the development environment (including the surrogate mother's genes, i guess).

however that's all just vague general knowledge and i may be very confused, while you sounded like you knoew what you were talking about. any comments? cheers.
(none of this alters conclusions about "success" or "failure" of cloning, i'm just curious about the process of animal colouring)
posted by andrew cooke at 3:23 AM on January 22, 2003

The point I was making all along is that this isn't a failure, there was no mutation, etc. As LimePi said, which X Chromosome gets expressed is completely random. This is important for calico coloring, but not much else, especially in plants which are asexual.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:14 AM on January 22, 2003

Why don't they use the same mother as the original for the egg donation and gestation? Wouldn't that minimize the difference due to mitochondria and gestational environment?
posted by beth at 8:09 AM on January 22, 2003

I read somewhere that with cats, coat color is also determined partly by the position of the kitten in the womb, possibly because of temperature? I have been curious about this, but can't find any information. Sound familiar to anyone?
posted by agregoli at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2003

In time, they plan to breed cc and let her produce some carbon copies of her own. But they are looking for just the right tom.

I hope to hear more with cc's offspring...
posted by thomcatspike at 12:28 PM on January 22, 2003

Andrew, calico is different than other coloring, because the color is expressed on the x chromosome, of which there are two. One x may have one color, red, while the other has green. (for fun) When the cat is developing each cell randomly shuts down an x chromosome. it is important to note that from this inactivation on the daughter cells will all have the same x inactivated, out another way, the inactivation of the x is retained through cell divisions. (in case you thought about it and wondered why there was not a uniform randomization across the cat's fur)

this sometimes happens on the retinas of females also, not calico (ha!), but patchy x inactivation, where a female may be color blind in one eye and not the other.

the neatest thing, and i can't find any links on it, is when a female gets two versions of the genes that encode the color receptors. possibly 2 versions of a blue receptor, say, which is on the x chromosome. (unlikely event 1) then different x's inactivate creating retinal mosiacism for the 2 versions of the color receptor. now the 2 versions may excite at slightly different wavelengths, the brain can handle this new input (!) and the female now has an extra data point for determining color. these people can differentiate colors that normal people see as the same color. (!!)
posted by rhyax at 7:01 PM on January 22, 2003

out another way-> OR another way
posted by rhyax at 7:03 PM on January 22, 2003

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