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April 22, 2004

Mice and Men

Media hype and bias are evident in reporting scientific research. The following headlines and lead paragraphs appeared in international news reports regarding the use of parthenogenesis to breed a mouse lacking male DNA. The stories are presented in a manner to gain readership but result in significant alternations to the scientific findings.

    Of mice and useless men
    PROVING that males are a biological frill, Japanese and Korean scientists have created a healthy mouse born with no male genetic material at all.

    Mice Created With 2 Genetic Moms, No Dad
    Just ahead of Mother's Day, scientists have found a way to cut dads out of the picture, at least among rodents: They have produced mice with two genetic moms — and no father. It is the first time the feat has been accomplished in mammals.

    The mouse that roared: Virgin Birth!
    Scientists' breakthrough raises prospect of fatherless babies
    A mouse has been created in the laboratory by a technique that does away with the need for males in reproduction, a breakthrough that raises the prospect of fatherless babies.

    Mice born without a dad’s DNA
    Mutant mother helps produce offspring, scientists say; technique could have implications for stem cells
    Men, your gender just took a hit in the animal kingdom. Scientists report they’ve created mice by using two genetic moms — and no dad.

Of course, Tomohiro Kono, the scientist at Tokyo University who led the research, dismissed the possibility of using parthenogenesis on humans as a "senseless question". In addition, "Scientists said the technique cannot be used on people, for reasons both technical and ethical. In fact, one of the mouse mothers was a mutant newborn, whose DNA had been altered to make it act like a male's contribution to an embryo."

When I first read the headlines I began to become concerned, what if I'm not longer needed? These mice experiments are aimed at men! A closer look reveals a contradiction between the scientists' statements and the reporters' interpretation. I noted that the BBC and Reuters did not utilize the same hyped-up lead paragraph and seemed to have a more balanced report of the research.

I would add that these endeavors pose an ethical minefield which our society is simply not equipped to deal with and, together with the media, are eroding the sanctity of life through an irreverent and callused observation of Life's beginnings. The current experiments are performed on mice but the target application is humans.

Posted by Blogorithm at April 22, 2004 10:47 PM

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