I saw Star Wars for the first time when I was four year’s old. I’d been a fan long before, thanks to the read-along books and the action figures, but actually seeing the film mad equite an impression on me. One of the things that bugged me, though, were the references to the off-screen “Clone Wars.”
I did not, after all, have the faintest clue what a “clone” was.
Eventually, after struggling mightily with the word to see if I could wrest meaning from it, I asked my Dad what clones were.
He said “It’s a process where you can make a copy of someone by taking a piece of their skin and turning it into a baby twin.”
I said “Wow, you can make a copy of me, just with a piece of skin?”
“Not really,” he said, “it’s just a cool idea for a story.”
Already having some idea of how science fiction worked, I asked the next logical question: “So…is it possible some day? Or is it just pretend?”
“It’s just pretend,” he said. “Some people think it might be possible in a hundred years, but that’s a long time–longer than you’ll be alive.”
In the intervening decades, cellular biologists have discovered a whole class of cells called “pluripotent stem cells.” These are cells that are created in the first generation of pregnancy–a zygote is a pluripotent stem cell at fertilization, and the first few generations of replication produce more pluripotent stem cells until the cells start differentiating.
Funny thing, though. In the last couple years induced pluripotent stem cells have been discovered, refined, and perfected–in Argentina they’re now using them to clone cows from the ear tissue of a parent cow. If that weren’t wild enough, how would you feel about turning your skin into brain tissue to cure you of Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative diseases?
I love living in the future–it’s been a quick hundred years!