How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution

How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution

by Kyle Kurpinski, Terry D. Johnson


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Send in the clones! On second thought, maybe not.
Find out the answers to these and other burning questions in this funny, informative, and ingenious book from two bioengineering experts who show you how to survive—and thrive—in a new age of truly weird science.
For decades, science fiction has been alerting us to the wonders and perils of our biotech future—from the prospects of gene therapy to the pitfalls of biological warfare. Now that future looms before us. Don’t panic! This book is all you need to prepare for the new world that awaits us, providing indispensable cautionary advice on topics such as
• bioenhancements: They’re not just for cyborgs anymore.
• DNA sequencing and fingerprinting: What’s scarier than the government having your DNA on file? Try having it posted on the Internet.
• human cloning: Just like you, only stronger, smarter, and more attractive. In other words: more dangerous.

Our future may be populated by designer babies, genetically enhanced supersoldiers, and one (or more!) of your genetic duplicates, but all is not lost. How to Defeat Your Own Clone is the ultimate survival guide to what lies ahead. Just remember the first rule of engagement: Don’t ever let your clone read this book!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553385786
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/23/2010
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 746,291
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Kyle Kurpinski received a Master's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in bioengineering in the joint graduate group between the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco. He is the lead product development engineer at Nanonerve, Inc. 

Terry D. Johnson received his Master's in Chemical Engineering from MIT and is currently a lecturer in the Bioengineering Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Read an Excerpt

THE BIOTECH REVOLUTION (Engineering Life for Fun and Profit)

In these days, a man who says a thing cannot be done is quite apt to be interrupted by some idiot doing it. —ELBERT GREEN HUBBARD
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. —ARTHUR C. CLARKE
Let’s face it: cloning and genetic manipulations can be kinda scary. But why exactly? Is it because biotechnology is inherently dangerous, or is it because we don’t fully comprehend it? The history of our technological development can be viewed as a series of discoveries in tension with human culture. Few innovations are welcomed with unrestrained admiration, especially when they upset the established social order. Take for example the Luddites—a British social movement opposed to the innovations brought about by the Industrial Revolution— who destroyed wool and cotton mills because these worked faster and cheaper than people did. Or consider how the splitting of the atom has changed the faces of warfare, diplomacy, and technology forever. It’s understandable that people are nervous about change, especially when said change involves unemployment or hiding under desks in the event of nuclear catastrophe.
We do tend to forget that there are many innovations that once caused us great anxiety, but have come to be accepted as a part of modern life. In ancient Greece the airless space of a vacuum was a philosophical conundrum, mysteriously capable of extinguishing flames and causing small animals to die. Nowadays, it’s a convenient way to get crumbs out of the carpet.
Not infrequently, the answer to an innovation’s dangers is more innovation. When human beings first started to congregate in large cities, disease grew to be such a problem that there was serious speculation that living in large cities was unnatural and unavoidably dangerous. People were not meant to live so close to one another. Cities were a disastrous and doomed experiment in living!
Then plumbing happened.
Today, critics assert that biotechnology is inherently dangerous. They argue that stem cell therapies will cause cancer, bioterrorism will be the downfall of the human race, and cloning is just a way of “playing God.” All the while transhumanists (those who wish to improve humanity via technology) are telling us the exact opposite: stem cells are the key to unlimited healing and virtual immortality, bioengineered viruses will cure disease, and genetic engineering is just body modification on the molecular level. Those few scientists who make their opinions known outside of impenetrable academic journals tend toward cautious optimism, while the politicians who regulate these breakthroughs and the media who disseminate them into popular culture are currently in a contest to prove which can be more flagrantly ignorant. It’s a dead heat.
In the long run, it doesn’t really matter what any of these groups say or believe. Progress is inevitable. Whether you love it, hate it, or simply do your best to ignore it, the biotech revolution has begun. We can’t tell you exactly what the future holds—only prophets or madmen truly know the future, and we authors are overqualified for one of those positions and underqualified for the other. So, we place our reputations in a certain amount of peril, making moderately educated guesses about the biology and medicine of tomorrow. We did this for two reasons: someone had to, and we needed the money.
One final warning before we begin. This book will treat you like a machine. For those who find this dehumanizing, please keep in mind that we think you are an absolutely marvelous, unbelievably fascinating machine that we have devoted our professional lives to understanding. If you want to prepare yourself for genetic body upgrades and outrageous clone battles, it’s best to consider the engineering advantages of our point of view
Isaac Newton—one of history’s greatest scientists—is often quoted as having said, “If I have seen a little further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (Considering what Newton thought of some of his contemporaries, however, he might have been wearing cleats.) Before we clamber upon our betters for a peek at the future, let’s take a look at what has already come to pass.
• Approximately 15,000 B.C.E.—Homo sapiens domesticate their first animal, Canis lupus familiaris, the subspecies of wolf we call dogs. Having acquired a best friend, the human race decides to see if there’s anything else in nature that could use a bit of tweaking.
• Approximately 10,000 B.C.E.—The sowing and harvesting of plants begins in the Middle East. This quickly replaces the previous method of acquiring food from the earth, which is best described as “wander around a lot and avoid those little red berries.” Farmers are soon selecting crops for specific characteristics such as yield, resistance to disease, and deliciousness.
• Approximately 8,000 B.C.E.—The cow is domesticated and eventually becomes the Swiss Army knife of agriculture, driving plows and providing meat, milk, leather, and manure.
• Approximately 4,000 B.C.E.—After several thousand odorous years of riding in carts behind cows, human beings domesticate the horse. Someday, we’ll pull our carts with giant, genetically engineered lobsters, but let’s take things one step at a time.
• Approximately 400 B.C.E.—The ancient Greeks begin writing seriously about biology and medicine, setting down principles that will confuse and mislead scientists for centuries.
• 1865—Gregor Mendel reads his paper “Experiments in Plant Hybridization” at two meetings of the Natural History Society of Brünn, Moravia. Initial response is underwhelming, but the scientific mainstream eventually recognizes him as “the Father of Modern Genetics,” thanks to his groundbreaking work with pea plant heredity, shedding new light on how biological traits are passed to successive generations. Our understanding of pea biology quickly surpasses that of all other legumes.
• 1902—Walter Sutton and Theodor Boveri independently propose that chromosomes may be the basis for Mendelian inheritance. Minds are blown.
• 1909—Wilhelm Johannsen coins the word “gene” to describe Mendel’s fundamental unit of heredity. This single careless decision leads to a century of irritating puns comparing genetics to denim pants
• 1928—Hans Spemann performs the first transfer of nuclear genetic material in amphibians, establishing the fundamental basis of laboratory cloning.
• 1944—Oswald Avery demonstrates that DNA is the genetic material of the cell.
• 1952—Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King perform the first successful animal cloning from early embryonic cells with northern leopard frogs. Unfortunately, this is just a specific species of frog, not a frog/leopard hybrid, but yes, that would be sweet. Give us a few years.
• 1953—James Watson and Francis Crick publish their double- helix structure of DNA, with some underappreciated help from Rosalind Franklin’s experimental data (the lousy sexist fifties).
• 1958—F. C. Steward grows a complete carrot plant from a single cell taken from the root of an adult plant, demonstrating that it’s possible to create a clone of at least one organism from an adult cell. Steward spends the rest of his career politely pretending that he’s never heard the “What’s up, Doc?” joke before.
• 1963—J.B.S. Haldane coins the term “clone,” without which we would have to call this book How to Defeat Your Own Genetically Identical Human. Thanks for the snappy title, J.
• 1966—Marshall Nirenberg and Heinrich J. Matthaei decipher the genetic code, which turns out to be much better written than The Da Vinci Code.
• 1972—Paul Berg creates the first recombinant DNA molecules, containing DNA sequences that are not normally found together. This technique becomes known as “gene splicing,” and is fundamental to genetic manipulation and engineering.
• 1972—Walter Fiers sequences the first gene, for a protein that forms part of the coating on a virus. The virus immediately begins questioning its own identity and selfdetermination.
• 1973—Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer create the first recombinant DNA organism—transgenic E. coli bacteria that contain a DNA sequence from frogs. E. coli has since become the go-to organism for producing large amounts of relatively simple proteins, including pharmaceuticals such as insulin, human growth hormone, and erythropoietin. Not bad for a life- form previously known mostly for making you ill.
• 1975—Frederick Sanger develops the Sanger method for DNA sequencing, a technique that allows scientists to “read” a section of DNA.
• 1978—“Baby Louise” is the first child born through in vitro fertilization or IVF. Well into adulthood, she’s still known as Baby (a nickname appropriate in a very limited number of social situations).
• 1983—Kary Mullis invents the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol, which allows for rapid synthesis and copying of specific DNA sequences, allegedly with the creative assistance of a little LSD.
• 1984—Steen Willadsen performs the first successful mammal cloning of sheep from embryonic cells, and this was twelve years before we ever heard about the whole “Dolly” thing.
• 1990—The Human Genome Project is launched by the National Institutes of Health to sequence the entire human genome using a combination of cutting- edge lab work and computer science. Keep in mind, this was back when a desktop computer was significantly less powerful than an iPhone, so they had their work cut out for them.
• 1996—Ian Wilmut creates “Dolly the sheep,” the first organism to be cloned from adult cells. Commence global panic in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1. . . .
• 1997—In a preemptive attempt to defeat his own clone, President Bill Clinton proposes to the U.S. Congress a five- year ban on human cloning.
• 1998—Several European nations sign a ban on human cloning, but this merely encourages the more rebellious nations to do it faster and with less caution. At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration claims authority over human cloning in the United States, implying that the government thinks a clone is either a food or a drug. We’re hoping the latter.
• 2001—President George W. Bush limits federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research to cell lines that have already been created, a move that manages to limit research without adopting a clear moral stance.
• 2002—California is the first state to legalize therapeutic cloning to produce human embryonic stem cells for new medical treatments. This comes just two years after Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in The 6th Day, and just one year before becoming governor of California. Coincidence? You decide.
• 2003—Great Britain is the first country to issue research licenses for therapeutic human cloning. Bond has a license to kill, and now Q has a license to clone.
• 2003—The Human Genome Project is finally completed, but at three billion characters it’s going to take a while to print.
• 2003—Craig Venter, founder of Celera Genomics, recreates the DNA sequence of a virus from scratch, using artificially synthesized DNA molecules.
• 2004—South Korean scientists claim to have successfully cloned and extracted stem cells from a human embryo, but an investigation in 2006 reveals the results to be fraudulent. While our capacity to fabricate humans remains limited, our ability to fabricate data knows no bounds.
• 2006—Patents are filed for Mycoplasma laboratorium, a bacterium whose entire genome has been artificially synthesized. The proposed organism will include a “watermark” that encodes some of the names of its creators into the organism’s DNA. Can you blame ’em?
• 2007—Craig Venter publishes the first completely sequenced individual human genome—his own. Recommended summer reading. We couldn’t put it down. • 2008—The FDA approves cloned animal meat for human consumption. Now it’s exactly like Mom used to make.
• 2008—President George W. Bush signs the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, a law prohibiting the misuse of personal genetic information by employers or insurance companies. We figure he watched Gattaca and got really freaked out.
• 2009—President Barack Obama reverses the federal funding ban on stem cell research. Finally, genetic change we can believe in.
• Now—You’ve just purchased How to Defeat Your Own Clone. Or you’re reading it for free in the bookstore . . . cheater.

Table of Contents

Prologue vii

1 The Biotech Revolution: (Engineering Life For Fun and Profit) 3

A brief introduction to the field that will fundamentally change you, and soon.

2 Cloning and You: (and You, and You, and ?) 19

What is this "clone" of which you speak?

3 Common Misconceptions about Cloning and Biotechnology: (Popular Culture Is a Poor Teacher) 51

Various affronts to biology and common sense in print or in film, and why they are all bollocks.

4 Bioenhancements: (Self-Improvement That Really Works!) 73

The human body as a unique fixer-upper opportunity.

5 A Starter Kit for Playing God: (Fiddling with Lower Life-Forms) 117

Frankenfood, human bits grown in plants and animals, and other alternatives to obscene breeding practices.

6 How to Defeat Your Own Clone: (and Look Good Doing It) 139

How to circumvent and defeat you if you and you aren't getting along as well as you would like.

Epilogue 179

Acknowledgments 181

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