Headless Frogs: Are Humans Next?

Sunday 19 Oct 1997   Copyright 1997 by United Press International

LONDON, OCT 19 (UPI) Scientists in Britain have created a headless frog embryo leading to speculation the technique could lead to the engineering of headless human clones that could be used to grow tissue and organs for transplant surgery, according to a report.


The Sunday Times of London says scientists at Bath University feel the technique could pave the way for people needing transplants to have human hearts, kidneys, livers and other organs grown custom made form their own cloned cells in laboratories.


The Times reported that none of the frog embryos were allowed to live longer than a week because of government rules stipulation the embryos are considered animals after they are a week old.


Following the creation of a cloned sheep – Dolly - by scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh earlier this year, many experts feel the cloning of humans is inevitable. Artificially grown human organs – which would be nurtured in an embryonic sac living in an artificial womb – would eliminate the treat of rejection following surgery, as the organs would be an exact genetic match with the recipient. The growth of partial embryos to provide customized organs would skirt legal and ethical issues as the lack of a brain or central nervous system would keep the organisms from technically being classified as embryos.


Scientists produced the frog embryos by manipulating specific genes to suppress the growth of a tadpole’s head, trunk and tail. Jonathan Slack, an embryologist at Bath University, says human’s embryos could be similarly grown as the same genes perform similar functions in both frogs and humans.