Dr Jose Cibelli, Vice President of Research, ACT,
is working late, because tomorrow morning he will start an extraordinary experiment. They are afraid of this new technology because they or perhaps they have a misconception that this is that we're creating a human being when, in fact; we're just reconstructing a small group of cells. For years Jose and his company have been cloning animals. In 1998 they cloned the first cow. Now, Jose will use his skills on another species he will try to grow an early human embryo. If he succeeds, his name will go down in history. Until now, there's only been one way to create human embryos with egg and sperm. Doctor Jose Cibelli however, is going into unknown territory with his experiments.
To clone a human embryo Jose Cibelli first needs human eggs like this.
Barely visible to the naked eye. It could easily fit onto the tip of a pin. Unlike the cow or bovine eggs Jose Cibelli practices with, human eggs are in extremely short supply. Tomorrow he'll work with some for the first time. I have access to hundreds and hundreds of bovine eggs, every day. Human eggs are completely different. You have only perhaps tomorrow we're going to get only, we can get anywhere from zero to twenty. And each one of them has to survive. When Jose Cibelli gets eggs, he will start to clone the genes of a man, a man who lives in Texas. Judson is a doctor. He's married with two children. He loves sport. He's run, biked and swum in several triathlons. His life could be described as perfect, except for one thing. In 1990, when he was 29, he broke his back in an accident. In a sense it's like being a prisoner. Before his injury, Judson was an athletic six-footer. The X-ray shows Judson's spine today. Steel pins support the shattered bone. The real harm though, is to his spinal cord, which has been completely severed. Judson believes Jose's cloning work offers him hope. Judson needs to grow new spinal tissue. But how? It's not possible for an adult. But there was a time when we could all do this amazing feat. When we were embryos. An embryo is made up of cells that can turn into the different cells and tissues of the human body, so an embryo has to make a heart, it has to make a liver and it has to make a brain. That's nature's way of making a human being. First of all, Jose Cibelli needs human eggs. He waits outside while they're collected from an anonymous donor at a nearby clinic. Human eggs are so hard to obtain that, initially, Jose's wife volunteered to donate hers. This is a difficult procedure. My wife wanted to do it, and she partially started to be stimulated and then had to be stopped. She's not the right age. So I am very, very thankful for this woman that is going to help us get the research done. A security guard is with Jose Cibelli to ensure the eggs don't go astray. Human eggs are precious, because a woman's ovaries normally produce just one egg every month. But under the influence of hormone injections a woman's body can produce up to twenty eggs at a time. As with infertility treatments, the eggs are collected under local anesthetic. Afterwards, the eggs are carefully counted and inspected. Each egg is less than a tenth of a millimeter wide. So Jose, do you know how many? We got seven. So that's good. They predicted east night, I didn't get the message, but they predicted eight. So they got seven. That's pretty good. These eggs could mark the start of a new era in medicine. The quest to repair people by cloning. You see, I don't want to think about it until we actually see the cells growing, I don't want to think about it. And when it's time to celebrate, we'll celebrate. Arriving safely back at HQ the security guard still accompanies Jose Cibelli down to his lab. The eggs will remain under lock and key. Jose Cibelli now faces the greatest challenge of his life. He will use these eggs to try to create the first few cells of an embryo of Judson. To do this, Jose Cibelli needs one more vital ingredient - Judson's own cells. I took a small cutter similar to the straw, and then with a circular twisting motion bored down through the skin to pull the biopsy out, and when I pulled it out, the bit of tissue stays inside of the cutter. Fortunately, I don't have any sensation so it doesn't hurt, but it certainly looks pretty horrible when you're doing it. This is a vial that contains several thousands of cells from the skin of Judson.