Friday, December 12, 2008


“AAAS Policy Brief: Human Cloning.” American Association for the Advancement of Science. 6, June 2007. 1 December 2008.
Benedict XVI. “Address of his holiness Benedict XVI to the participants in the plenary session of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.” Congregation for the doctrine of the faith. Vatican. Clementine Hall, Vatican City. 31 January, 2008.

Clonaid. Retrieved 11/19/08

Craven, Martha Nussbaum and Cass R. Sunstein, eds. Clones and Clones. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Dawkins, Richard. “What’s wrong with cloning?” Craven and Sunstein, 54-67

Gould, Stephen Jay. “Dolly’s Fashion and Louis’s Passion.” Craven and Sunstein, 41-54

Devolder, Katrien. “Cloning.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 17 September 2008. Stanford University. 10 December 2008.

French, Andrew J., Catharine A. Adams, Linda S. Anderson, John R. Kitchen, Marcus R. Hughes, Samuel H. Wood. “Development of Human cloned Blastocysts Following Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) with Adult Fibroblasts.” Stem Cells Jan. 17, 2008.

Jaenisch, Rudolph. “Human Cloning – The Science and Ethics of Nuclear Transplantation.” The New England Journal of Medicine 351 (Dec 30, 2004): 2787-2791.

Kolata, Gina. Clone: The Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1998.

Ott, Harald C, Thomas S Matthiesen, Saik-Kia Goh, Lauren D Black, Stefan M Kren, Theoden I Netoff &
Doris A Taylor. “Perfusion-decellularized matrix: using nature’s platform
to engineer a bioartificial heart.” Nature Medicine. Jan. 13, 2008.

“Position Statement on Human Cloning” Citizenlink Action Center. 2008. Focus on the Family 10 December 2008.

“State Human Cloning Laws.” National Conference of State Legislatures. January 2008. 1, December 2008.

Stemagen. 17 January, 2008. 10 December, 2008.

The Island. Dir. Michael Bay. Perf. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannsen. Dream Works, 2005.

Powerpoint: Second Half

Powerpoint: First Half

Movie Review: The Island

(Warning, Spoilers Ahead!)

The Island (2005) is a dystopian science fiction film set in the near future. Its protagonists, Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johanssen) believe they are residents of a facility containing the last humans uncontaminated by a planet spanning disaster. Residents of their facility look forward to being chosen to go to ‘the island,’ the last uncontaminated place left on earth. After Lincoln discovers an insect within the bowels of the facility, he becomes suspicious about the story of contamination. When Lincoln’s friend Jordan Two Delta is chosen to go to the Island, Lincoln travels to the upper story of the facility. Lincoln witnesses the harvesting of organs from another ‘winner’ (Michael Clarke Duncan) and decides to rescue Jordan. When the two escape, they find James McCord (Steve Buscemi), whom they assumed was a colonist at the facility. McCord explains that Lincoln and Jordan are clones, and that their bodies are used to harvest organs. The rest of the world is led to believe that the clones are in a persistent vegetative state, but the clones were unable to survive without lives of their own. Lincoln and Jordan now must try to escape and bring down the facility. That’s the smallest amount I could give away before getting to the good part; the science.

The most obvious assumption that this movie makes is that cloning to adulthood is possible. Some form of fast development is achieved. This ignores the current scientific opinion. According to this article, “Nuclear cloning prevents the proper reprogramming of the clone's genome, which is a prerequisite for the development of an embryo into a normal organism. It is unlikely that these biologic barriers to normal development can be overcome in the foreseeable future.” While it’s still plausible in a science fiction sense to include human cloning in the movie, the fact that they did it without a nod to overcoming epigenetics just isn’t cool. The problem of methylation is one scientists think unsolveable. That makes the cloning that happens in this movie pretty much impossible. Strike one against The Island.

Something that always struck me as wasteful in The Island is that they grow an entire clone just to harvest one organ from it. Wouldn’t it be cool if they could just clone the organ by itself and be done with it? Guess what: They Can. Early this year, scientists at the University of Minnesota created a beating heart in a tank using stem cells. They took a working heart and killed the cells, leaving behind a protein matrix. They then introduced stem cells into that matrix. After a few days, they got hearts that pumped. Freaky, no? There you have it. No muss, no fuss. You don’t have to waste a person and deal with all the cover up. Strike two against The Island.

Putting aside the fact that it’s inefficient to clone whole humans (though cloning humans to adulthood seems to be impossible too), Lincoln and Jordan had dreams about their natural-born counterparts. When they realize what they are, they are led to wonder if they somehow less human because they’re clones. The correct scientific answer for adult human clones is no. A clone is a genetic copy of an individual. What else is a genetic copy of an individual? An identical twin. Thus, clones are like twins separated by time. Some twins claim that they can feel what the other twin is thinking, but that is probably because most identical twins spend inordinate amounts of time together. Thus, realistically, the dreams of past memories probably wouldn’t occur.

Once again, proper science gets in the way of telling a good story. The island is a good movie, but if you’re bothered by incorrect science, don’t see it.

Science rating: 2/10

Notes Page:

The first paragraph, starting with “The Island” and ending with “the science” is paraphrased from The Island.
The quote starting with “Nuclear cloning prevents” is quoted from Jaenisch.
The sentences beginning with “Early this year” and ending with “pumped” is paraphrased from Ott, et al.
The sentences beginning with “The correct scientific answer” and ending with “by time” are paraphrased from Dawkins.

Newspaper Article

Cloning Advances go Unnoticed by Public

Indiana, PA – The news in January that 5 human embryos had been cloned went unnoticed by much of the public. Scientists at Stemagen laboratories in California produced living human blastocyst embryos. Brittany Lyn Papalia, an IUP sophomore and Biology minor, said that she knew “a tiny, tiny bit” about cloning, but could not describe the methods. Papalia, along with other IUP students, were completely unaware of the developments at Stemagen.

The scientists at Stemagen used the method known as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, or SCNT. At its root, SCNT involves removing the nucleus from the donor egg, isolating a nucleus from an adult (somatic) cell, and inserting the adult nucleus into the de-nucleated egg.

According to Stemagen’s website, their cloning achievement was “a critical milestone in the development of patient-specific embryonic stem cells for human therapeutic use, potentially including developing treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases.” Though no actual stem cells were produced, the growth of embryos is one step along that path.

Comments specifically on Stemagen’s achievement have been scarce. The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family specifically condemns SCNT. Pope Benedict XVI said in a January 31, 2008 address that “The barrier that served to protect human dignity has been violated,” and that embryos “Are no longer being treated as ‘someone’ but rather as ‘something’.”On the other hand, some bioethicists think that cloned human embryos are different from normal humans in that they have less potential to grow into normal adults.

Either way, however you feel, perhaps the next advance in human cloning will be bigger news.

Notes Page:

The statement that begins “Scientists at Stemagen Laboratories” is paraphrased from French, et al
The quote “a tiny, tiny bit” is quoted from my interview with Brittany Lyn Papalia
The paragraph about Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is paraphrased from Jaenisch.
The quote beginning with “a critical milestone” is quoted form Stemagen’s website
The statement that begins “The conservative Christian group” is paraphrased from “Positiion Statement on Human Cloning”
The two quotes in the sentence beginning with “Pope Benedict XVI” are quoted from Pope Benedict XVI
The sentence beginning with “On the Other Hand,” is paraphrased from Devolder
Originally, I wanted to interview Dr. Sherrill Begres. She is a bioethicist, and probably the leading authority at IUP on the ethics of human cloning. Unfortunately, Dr. Begres was busy. I told her that any time before thanksgiving would be good, but she still couldn’t do it. I was going to try to get her perspective on cloning. Was it ethical? What about the differences between reproductive and therapeutic? Is there a moral imperative to clone or not to clone? Are clones real human beings or are they somehow different? I would be learning fundamental issues of ethics that I could have used to write a newspaper article about the ethics of cloning. Unfortunately, Dr. Begres couldn’t do an interview.

Dr. Getchell provided me with the idea to do a man-on-the-street style interview, asking the average student about human cloning. I could then use that to write an article about what students at IUP know about human cloning. If I had more time, I would have done several interviews to get a broader spectrum of opinion and awareness. I interviewed my friend Brittany Lyn Papalia, a fellow sophomore. She is an English major with a biology minor, so I figured she might represent about the average knowledge of biology here at IUP. I wanted to learn what she knew about human cloning, stem cells, and epigenetics. I also wanted to know what her opinion was on human cloning, for or against it. Though it wouldn’t be an expert’s opinion, it still represents another opinion besides my own. The transcript of the interview follows:

Stephen Luciano: I’m going to ask you a few questions, is it ok if I record the answer and use them in a newspaper article.
Brittany Lyn Papalia: Yessirree.
SL: What is your name and major?
BLP: Brittany Lyn Papalia, and my major is English, BA.
SL: How much biology education would you say you’ve had?
BLP: Umm, I took two biology classes in high school, and two in college.
SL: Do you know anything about stem cells? If so, what?
BLP: A tiny bit.
SL: Can you say specifically what you know?
BLP: No, I’m sorry.
SL: Do you anything about epigenetics?
BLP: No, I’ve never even heard of that term before.
SL: Do you know anything about cloning?
BLP: Again, a tiny tiny bit. Like, I know what it is.
SL: What is cloning, then?
BLP: It’s where you take an embryo of something and make a duplicate. That’s about as much as I know.
SL: Do you know the difference between reproductive and therapeutic cloning?
BLP: Oh god, I just talked about this today in my philosophy class. (You don’t have to write that.) I believe that I do not know the answer. Reproductive is when you’re like actually cloning someone. But therapeutic is where you use stem cells, for like cancer and such.
SL: Do you think we should experiment with human cloning? Do you think we should do it.
SL: I think so, but like, at the same time, as long as we know it wouldn’t cause harm on the person that they’re taking the cells from. You know what I mean? I don’t care about the clone. If we were cloning Zack, as long as Zack wouldn’t get hurt.
SL: Is it ok for therapeutic cloning or reproductive cloning or both or neither?
BLP: Personally I’m a strong believer in the whole stem cell thing. My aunt had her live saved because of that. She had cancer but it’s reduced a lot. They haven’t found any bad cells in awhile.
SL: Do the benefits outweigh the consequences?
BLP: Yes, because a lot of the time people think that it’s like you’re just killing a baby in order to kill the stem cells. I don’t think you’re actually killing anyone. I don’t think you’re really causing harm on anyone.
SL: Were you aware that they actually have cloned human embryos from stem cells?
BLP: No, I was not.
SL: Is there anything else you want to say?
BLP: Nope.

Research Proposal

Stephen Luciano
Research Proposal: Human Cloning
October 8, 2008

My topic is human cloning. I will discuss the actual method of cloning, the science behind it, the history of cloning, and what might happen in the future. In addition, I will discuss the ethics of cloning; should we do it? What are the implications?

My audience is the average reader; one with a high school biology education. I don’t know enough about human cloning to write to a true scientific paper on it. I think the biggest problem with this will be the terminology. People won’t remember their embryos from their zygotes , etcetera.

The purpose of this paper is to inform. I don’t want to make it for or against cloning. I just want to explain the process and its progress. I guess the ethics situation might point the paper one way or the other, but I won’t use the ethics to justify a position; I’ll jut put it out there that some people believe a certain thing.

The first genre, one that we all have to do, is an interview. I know one of my subjects already. Dr. Sherrill Begres is a bioethicist. I’m sure she knows about the ethics of cloning. She is a philosophy professor here at IUP, and I have previously had her for class. I also may want to interview a biology professor, on e who knows about cloning and can explain the science a bit better. I will then have two contrasting individuals. Dr. Begres, who knows the ethics but not necessarily the science, will contrast with a biology professor, probably Dr. Hinrichsen, who knows the science but not necessarily the ethics.

My newspaper article will discuss a current event in the field of cloning. I’m not sure yet what event, but it will have to be something newsworthy. I will probably include quotes from Dr. Begres and Dr. Hinrichsen, as well as additional quotes as needed. I could write about the ethical conflict in general. I f I completely wanted to ignore the idea of impartial, I could write an editorial for or against (probably for) cloning.

I’m not sure yet what I want to do for genre three or genre four. I have several ideas floating around, and I’m not sure how feasible any of them would be. One idea is to write a science fiction story that accurately depicts cloning. One problem I see with this is that it would be hard to remain neutral. Plus, I would have to cite my information, and that could make the story boring. Still, it would be really cool to write a science fiction short story, and it would be another way to present information on cloning, while making it less boring.

Another idea that I had was to write a syllabus for a college course. I already have several ideas for this, but I have no experience writing syllabi. I also don’t know how much detail I would need to go into for each day. I think this would be really useful though, as I plan on being a professor. Also, as I plan on informing people, it makes sense to write a syllabus, as a class is a great forum for information. The problem is, I would be writing a syllabus for an advanced college course for biology, and my material is generally aimed for people with only a high school biology education.

Another idea I had was a comparative movie review, discussing the many movies that portray cloning, and how accurate each movie is. Offhand, I can think of Godsend and The Sixth Day. I am sure there are other movies that depict cloning. I could compare the movies for their scientific accuracy. I think that would help debunk myths about cloning.

I am really excited for this project. I love my subject, and I think it will be really cool to do interviews and write a newspaper article. I’m just not sure about my genres three and four. The three ideas I have so far seem like they would be really good. Now I just have to choose.


I decided that the best way to put the diverse parts of this project together would be a blog. While I was doing my movie review, I thought it would be authentic to the genre to put hyperlink in it, as I have seen on a lot of websites. This allows easier access to the sources. Hyperlink would look dumb on a printed page, so I needed another medium. I have a PowerPoint presentation as well. I didn’t just want to print it out either. If I had decided to do this blog sooner, I would have included more how-to posts describing my research process in more detail.

This project changed a lot from my original idea. Originally I wanted to do a syllabus for a college level biology course on human cloning and a science fiction story that correctly described the science of cloning. My audience was originally going to be college students with a little biology education. That actually seemed to stay constant.

When given the opportunity to present my project in front of the class, I decided to create an educational PowerPoint. Since I had gone to the trouble, and I liked the PowerPoint, I decided to use it as one of my genres. I had been having trouble with the science fiction story; creative writing is not my strong suit. I dropped it and went with the PowerPoint.

In the same fashion, I dropped the idea of a syllabus because I have no experience writing one. Also, any course dealing with human cloning would probably be too technical for the average college student, my audience. Somebody had suggested that I do a movie review. I brainstormed a list of movies that involve cloning, and The Island was the most recent movie that seemed to be popular.

I assumed that my audience would be IUP students who have had a little bit of biology instruction. They probably have heard about stem cells, and have a general idea what they are and what they do. They may know a bit about cloning, but some of it may be misinformation (probably spread by movies like The Island). I would then try to teach them more about the science of cloning. My newspaper article would help inform them about some newsworthy happenings in the field of cloning, while my PowerPoint and my movie review would clear up some misunderstandings about cloning.

This project has taken a long time to complete, but I have learned a lot about the subject of cloning, and the research process, from it. Hopefully anyone seeing this blog other than Dr. Getchell will learn from it too.