AHB 101:   A SCIENCE TIMELINE

Pre-1970s:  Biology is largely a descriptive science concerned chiefly with learning how biologic organisms are born, live, and die.  

1973:   Researchers learn how to combine DNA from organisms of different species (Recombinant DNA or rDNA).  Life forms previously not found in nature, can now be created in the laboratory. Applications potentially affect all biologic organisms including plants, animals, and humans.

Late 1970s:   The field of human reproduction adopts cattle breeding technologies in the form of in vitro fertilization (fertilizing egg and sperm in the laboratory, outside of the human body.) Social and economic changes cause women to postpone childbearing.  This increases the motivation for scientific intervention in fertility treatment.   Louise Brown, first "test tube baby," is born in 1977.  Prenatal genetic testing comes into increasingly widespread use.

1980:   US Supreme Court allows the patenting of microorganisms. Changes in biotech patenting laws increase conflicts of interest for research scientists.  Science researchers become "science entrepreneurs."   Researchers routinely come to start up their own biotech companies. AHB NOTEBiotech Patenting 

1981:  Embryo stem cells produced using mouse embryos.

1982:  Transgenic mice are produced, opening the way for proposals to enable people to have genetic variations not present in either parent.

1982:  World Bank begins funding agricultural projects with distinct biotechnology components.

1984:  "Geeps" (goat-sheep hybrids, "chimera") are created.

1984:  First reported human egg donation performed in Australia. 

1985: Patenting of life forms is extended to include plants.

1986: Reports of successful human egg freezing reported in Singapore, Australia & Europe,

1987:  US Patent Office allows the patenting of higher organisms, including animals.

1990s:  Market for human eggs expands with expansion of fertility industry and growing interest among scientists in using eggs in research. 

1997:  Scottish researchers report successful cloning of a sheep (Dolly) using an adult donor cell. This leads to patents that specifically cover human cloning.

1998:  University of Wisconsin biologists describe human embryonic stem cells and file patents on them.

1999:  Jesse Gelsinger, age 18, dies in gene "therapy" experiment at the University of Pennsylvania.  Researchers involved with the experiment had financial conflicts of interest related to the study.

2000:  The Human Genome Project releases a working draft of the humane genome.  A "finished" sequence of the humane genome is released in 2003.

2002:  NY Academy of Sciences discusses proposal to inject human embryo stem cells into mouse embryos to explore potential of embryonic stem cells.

2002:  Fertility experts begin promoting egg freezing for women who want to delay childbearing.  

2004:  California passes Proposition 71, "Stem Cell Research and Cures" Initiative, making the creation of clonal human embryos a state constitutional right.  Three billion dollars is authorized for this and related purposes.  Research proponents bring legal action in a failed effort to prevent feminists from publishing, in the Voters' Guide, information showing that cloning research would require hundreds of thousands of women's eggs, subjecting women to significant health risks.  

2005   International cloning scandal, centered in South Korea.  Researcher Hwang Woo Suk claims to have derived stem cells from the world's first cloned human embryos.  This proves to be false.  Women were coerced into "donating" their eggs for research.  Nearly 20% of the women who donated eggs for the research end up suffering from Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome.  

2007:  Jolee Mohr, age 36, dies in gene "therapy" experiment conducted by Targeted Genetics in Chicago.

2007:  Scientist at University of Nevada creates sheep after injecting human adult stem cells into a sheep's fetus. 

2007:  Great Britain approves creation of human-animal hybrid embryos.  (In the U.S., similar research proceeds largely without regulation.) 

2007, November:  Researchers in Oregon clone monkey embryos. Over 300 eggs from 14 female monkeys were used.  Two lines of stem cells were derived, one with an abnormal Y chromosome.  This is the first time that stem cells are derived from a primate clonal embryo.  The lead investigator expressed confidence that the cloning technique would work in humans.

2007, November:  Two independent teams of researchers, from Wisconsin and Japan, coax an adult cell to behave like an embryonic stem cell.  No human eggs were used.  No embryos were created or destroyed.  Although the technique made use of a cancer gene and caused the creation of tumors it is widely hailed as a landmark achievement.    

2008, January:   Scientists at Stemagen Corporation in La Jolla, California announce they have created the first 'proven' human cloned embryos

2008, May 11:  UK watchdog group, Human Genetics Alert, reveals that last year, researchers at Cornell University had created the world's first genetically modified human embryo, without informing the public.  

2009, February:  News reports reveal that The Fertility Institute, a Los Angeles based fertility industry chain, has advertised that it intends to offer embryo screening for cosmetic traits like hair and eye color, in addition to offering sex selection.    

2009, June:  New York State decides to pay women up to $10,000 for their eggs for research purposes.  

2010, May:   J. Craig Venter creates a self-replicating "synthetic" cell.  President Obama instructs White House commission to study issues raised by synthetic biology.

2010, December:  Federal commission greenlights synthetic biology, ignoring concerns of 58 civil society groups in 22 countries.

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Eric S. Grace, Biotechnology Unzipped: Promises and Realities

Stuart A. Newman, "Averting the Clone Age: Prospects and Perils of Human Developmental Manipulation"

Pete Shanks: Human Genetic Engineering: A Guide for Activists, Skeptics, and the Very Perplexed

 

RELATED VIDEOS

Professor Stuart Newman on Human Genetic Modification, Part One:

rofessor Stuart Newman on Human Genetic Modification, Part Two: