The Roslin Institute was established in 1993 in the village of Roslin, Scotland, as an independent research center by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and as of 2014 is part of the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. Researchers at the Roslin Institute cloned the Dolly the sheep in 1996. According to the Roslin Institute, Dolly was the first mammal to develop into an adult from the transfer of the nucleus of an adult sheep cell into an ovum with the nucleus removed. The Roslin Institute performs genetic and medical based animal studies to help investigate human physiology and medicine and to improve agricultural research. The Roslin Institute studies embryology, cloning, hormones, and genetic alterations in animals and techniques such as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT).
Keith Henry Stockman Campbell studied embryo growth and cell differentiation during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the UK. In 1995, Campbell and his scientific team used cells grown and differentiated in a laboratory to clone sheep for the first time. They named these two sheep Megan and Morag. Campbell and his team also cloned a sheep from adult cells in 1996, which they named Dolly. Dolly was the first mammal cloned from specialized adult (somatic) cells with the technique of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Campbell helped develop cloning techniques that used a common form of connective tissue cells (fibroblasts). Besides working at the Roslin Institute, in Edinburgh, Scotland, for most of his career, Campbell also taught at the University of Nottingham in Nottingham, England.
In the 1990s, researchers working at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, performed cloning experiments in collaboration with PPL Therapeutics in Roslin, Scotland, on human coagulation factor IX, a protein. The team of scientists used the methods identified during the Dolly experiments to produce transgenic livestock capable of producing milk containing human blood clotting factor IX, which helps to treat a type of hemophilia. By using a cell's resting state, called quiescence, or G0, and transferring modified nuclear material from one cell to an egg cell that had had its nuclear material removed, the researchers developed a method to produce genetically modified mammals, including humans. Angelika E. Schnieke, Alexander J. Kind, William A. Ritchie, Karen Mycock, Angela R. Scott, Marjorie Ritchie, Ian Wilmut, Alan Colman, and Keith H. S. Campbell published the results of their experiments as Human Factor IX Transgenic Sheep Produced by Transfer of Nuclei from Transfected Fetal Fibroblasts (hereafter called Human Factor IX). The article details the methods that produced the cloned sheep named Polly, as well as other cloned and genetically altered sheep.
In the 1990s, Ian Wilmut, Jim McWhir, and Keith Campbell performed experiments while working at the Roslin Institute in Roslin, Scotland. Wilmut, McWhir, and Campbell collaborated with Angelica Schnieke and Alex J. Kind at PPL Therapeutics in Roslin, a company researching cloning and genetic manipulation for livestock. Their experiments resulted in several sheep being born in July 1996, one of which was a sheep named Dolly born 5 July 1996. Dolly was the first sheep cloned and developed from the nuclei of fully differentiated adult cells, rather than from the nuclei of early embryonic cells. They published their results in Viable Offspring Derived from Fetal and Adult Mammalian Cells (abbreviated Viable Offspring) on 27 February 1997.
In 2003, Carmina Gisbert and her research team produced a tobacco plant that could remove lead from soil. To do so, they inserted a gene from wheat plants that produces phytochelatin synthase into a shrub tobacco plant (Nicotiana glauca) to increase N. glauca's absorption and tolerance of toxic metals, particularly lead and cadmium. Gisbert and her team aimed to genetically modify a plant so that it could be used for phytoremediation- using plants to remove toxic substances from the soil. Scientists have identified phytoremediation as an effective and efficient process to improve human health and reproductive health in contaminated areas. Metals like mercury and lead can cause birth defects during human development like cognitive impairment, cerebral palsy, deafness, tremors, and blindness.
In March 2011 the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and around sixty agricultural organizations (OSGATA et al.) filed a suit against Monsanto Company and Monsanto Technology L.L.C., collectively called Monsanto. The hearings for Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. v. Monsanto (2012) took place at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, New York. The district court's Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald dismissed OSGATA's suit. A year later, OSGATA appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., and the court agreed with the District Court's 2013 decision. OSGATA appealed to the US Supreme Court in late 2013, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 2014. In the OSGATA et al. v. Monsanto case, OSGATA claimed that genetically modified seeds are a threat to both human health and conventional and organic farming. OSGATA petitioned that because of this threat, twenty-three of Monsanto's patents on genetic modification processes and technologies were invalid.
Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering, or MAGE, is a genome editing technique that enables scientists to quickly edit an organism’s DNA to produce multiple changes across the genome. In 2009, two genetic researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Harris Wang and George Church, developed the technology during a time when researchers could only edit one site in an organism’s genome at a time. Wang and Church called MAGE a form of accelerated evolution because it creates different cells with many variations of the same original genome over multiple generations. MAGE made genome editing much faster, cheaper, and easier for genetic researchers to create organisms with novel functions that they can use for a variety of purposes, such as making chemicals and medicine, developing biofuels, or further studying and understanding the genes that can cause harmful mutations in humans.
In 2015, Revive & Restore launched the Woolly Mammoth Revival Project with a goal of engineering a creature with genes from the woolly mammoth and introducing it back into the tundra to combat climate change. Revive & Restore is a nonprofit in California that uses genome editing technologies to enhance conservation efforts in sometimes controversial ways. In order to de-extinct the woolly mammoth, researchers theorize that they can manipulate the genome of the Asian elephant, which is the mammoth’s closest living evolutionary relative, to make it resemble the genome of the extinct woolly mammoth. While their goal is to create a new elephant-mammoth hybrid species, or a mammophant, that looks and functions like the extinct woolly mammoth, critics have suggested researchers involved in the project have misled and exaggerated the process. As of 2021, researchers have not yet succeeded in their efforts to de-extinct the woolly mammoth, but have expressed that it may become a reality within a decade.
In 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a series of videos to a YouTube channel titled “The He Lab” that detailed one of the first instances of a successful human birth after genome editing had been performed on an embryo using CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR-cas9 is a genome editing tool derived from bacteria that can be used to cut out and replace specific sequences of DNA. He genetically modified embryos at his lab in Shenzhen, China, to make them immune to contracting HIV through indirect perinatal transmission from their father, who was infected with the virus. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune cells of its host and weakens their ability to fight off diseases. At the time of He’s experiment, various treatments already existed at that could prevent the fetuses from contracting HIV without the need for gene surgery. Nonetheless, He’s experiment led to one of the first successful births of fetuses resulting from genetically modified embryos. He kept his experiment secret until he uploaded the videos announcing the birth of the fetuses, born as two twin girls. The experiment discussed in the videos was successful, but many scientists criticized the experiment due to ethical concerns with the way He conducted it.
The goal of this research project was to examine how different messaging techniques, and especially expressions of emotionality surrounding the loss and recovery of biodiversity, can differently influence public attitudes about conservation and the environment. This question was explored using the case of de-extinction, an emerging and controversial conservation technology. De-extinction claims to “resurrect” extinct species, challenging widely held notions of extinction as permanent. Yet seeing extinction as reversible may shift how people feel about biodiversity loss and our moral responsibility to stop it.