When Dr. Terrence L. Stull, scientific director of the Children’s Medical Research Institute, asked me if I’d like to stop by his lab to be cloned, I thought he was kidding.
“Silly scientist,” I thought to myself, chalking his suggestion up to the gentle ribbing reporters often receive, “clone the newspaper guy and you’ll have twice as many inane questions.”
Turns out Stull wasn’t kidding.
He suggested taking a cheek swab and cloning the cell in his lab. He proposed I explain how the process works. The quirkiness of the suggestion aside, I was taken with the idea of teaching people about cloning.
For all the stories people read about cloning, few have a clue how scientists reproduce a strand of DNA, much less a monkey or sheep.
I did some related work while a biology student at the University of Tulsa but never really felt like I had a good handle on it. Nevertheless, DNA sequencing, genetics and related science fascinated and humbled me.
So, Monday morning I’m having a cheek cell cloned. Technically, an epithelial cell, which is a good place to start because it is easily accessible and fairly simple.
I hope to show how routine the process has become yet how far scientists, even those as capable as Stull and his CMRI colleagues, are from being able to clone a fully functioning Oklahoman reporter.
What is the most impressive to me is that technology has leveled the playing field in molecular biology. Researchers don’t have to have tens of millions of dollars or an endowed chair at Harvard to make a mark. We are all made of cells, and cells reveal their secrets to those who ask the right questions and look in the right places for answers.
I don’t know if any of my little experiment Monday will ever make it into the newspaper, or exactly what I’m going to do with it. If only there were two of me, then I could figure things out.
Jeff Raymond, Medical Writer