Researchers have successfully cloned a mouse using mature olfactory neurons as the genetic donor. The scientists credit the idea for the experiments to Woody Allen whose classic comedy Sleeper depicted scientists who try to clone a dead dictator from his nose.
The images are of a newborn mouse cloned from an olfactory sensory neuron that had been marked with a genetic change so that it would be green under fluorescent light. Here you see on the right, a green cloned pup and in the upper left a normal non-green newborn mouse for comparison.
The current study aims to answer longstanding questions about the developmental potential of mature cells. In doing their experiments, the researchers were seeking to determine whether a single mature olfactory neuron, when introduced into an egg, or oocyte, depleted of its nucleus, could revert to an undifferentiated state in which it could give rise to an adult mouse possessing the full range of olfactory receptors.
Indeed, the resulting mice exhibited an array of well organized odorant receptors that were indistinguishable from those of normal mice, the researchers reported on February 15, 2004, in an article published in an advance online publication in the journal Nature. The research was performed in the laboratories of Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT, and Richard Axel, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Columbia University. Co-lead authors on the paper were Kevin Eggan in Jaenischs laboratory and Kristin Baldwin in Axels laboratory.
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