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Gene thats key to cloning success also hints at serious hurdles to reproductive cloning

human cloning, The Penn work offers new support for the feasibility of therapeutic cloning using embryonic stem cells.

"The small number of clones that did adequately express Oct4 were capable of forming embryonic stem cell lines," Schler said, "supporting existing evidence of the scientific feasibility of therapeutic cloning even as it shows the infeasibility of reproductive human cloning."

The Penn team chose Oct4 as a marker because its expression is tightly regulated throughout the mammalian life cycle. Oct4, which encodes a protein critical to normal embryonic development, is expressed only in the portion of the embryo that eventually gives rise to fetal tissues; in the adult, Oct4 is expressed only in germ cells.

Although improper expression of Oct4 can single-handedly obstruct embryonic development, Oct4 is likely not the only gene expressed incorrectly in cloned embryos.

"When we started the study, we thought Oct4 misexpression might account for a fraction of clone failures," Schler said. "The big surprise was that Oct4 alone can explain most of the failures, although Oct4 is probably just one gene of many whose misexpression can cause cloned embryos to fail."


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Contact: Steve Bradt
bradt@pobox.upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
14-May-2002


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