Category Archives: cloning

Wonderful Things: Human Genome books

From Keith Richards to Jordan, books about people’s lives fly off the shelves. But what if they looked like this….?

Dense bedtime reading in the Human Genome books

Created from the Human Genome Project, these replica books (a printed version can be seen at the Wellcome Collection) show the sequence of 3 billion bases of DNA contained within a human cell.

Who did this?

 Beginning in 1990, the Human Genome project, coordinated by the U.S Department of Energy and the national institutes of health, intended to identify human genes, develop understanding of genetic diseases and highlight key developmental processes of the human body.  Whilst initial analysis was released in 2001, the final sequence was completed in 2003.

 What exactly were they looking at?

They were looking at the biological data which makes us unique; the things which make us, us.

 Sounds simple. What about the Science?

Ok. To start with, a genome is all in the DNA in an organism, including its genes which carry information for making proteins.

DNA is composed of four letters carrying instructions for making an organism – A, C G AND T.  Three of these letters together create an Amino Acid. These combinations make up 20 different amino acids and come in a vast number of different orders to create proteins from keratin to haemoglobin.

 Got it.

The human genome is made up of 3 billion bases of DNA, split into 24 chromosomes. Each chromosomes contains a selection of genes – the human genome contains about 20,000 – 25,000 genes.

 Ah, so that’s all the letters?

Exactly. This information can be used to develop new ways to diagnose, treat and someday prevent diseases. Scientists also studied the genetic makeup of non-human organisms including e.coli, the fruit fly and a laboratory mouse.

 Sounds useful, if not a bit sci-fi.

 Yes and, as with much boundary-pushing scientific research, this can lead to opposition and criticism. This was the first large scientific undertaking to address potential ethical, legal and social issues around data.  You might want to think about:

  1. Who should have access to this information?
  2. How much should people intervene with genetics material?
  3. How could this information be used?
  4. Could it be used for financial benefits?

 After all that, fancy some beach reading? 

 The Human Genome book is in the Who Am I? Gallery:  first floor, Wellcome Wing.

-Christopher Whitby

Do clones have Birthdays?

Cloning always seems to be popping up in the news – it’s an issue where science meets sci-fi and it raises enormous ethical questions. It’s also a topic on many GSCE courses, so it’s a great subject to discuss with your class.

Cloning from an adult cell really hit the headlines back in 1997 with the arrival of Dolly the Sheep. Her relatively early death in February 2003 fuels the debate about the ethics of cloning research and the long-term health of clones.

The Science Museum’s Antenna team have put together a mini site on the world’s most famous sheep here, perfect for student research.

Did you know she was named after Dolly Parton? If you want to find out why download the fab talk Science cloning quiz – a perfect lesson starter to introduce cloning.

There are lots of controversial figures in the world of cloning which can make for interesting case studies in class. Hwang Woo Suk cloned the worlds first dog, the adorably named Snuppy, and later claimed to have created the world’s first cloned human embryonic stem cells. The claim was revealed to be false, but it was believable - the technology to clone humans might not be too far away.

People have cloned sheep, dogs, cats, mice and monkeys. Meet Andi the rhesus monkey:

Andi the Rhesus monkey

He’s adorable, and so much like a human baby.

Very soon scientists will be able to clone humans. The question is, should they? Would society consider clones as fully human as the rest of us? Ask your students how they would feel if they found out that they were a clone, and how they would feel about their “parent”. You could show them this video, which set in 2021 and follows the story of Clarissa, who is told on her 18th birthday that she is a clone of a woman who donated an egg.