Liven up your next din­ner party with our novice-friendly cheat sheet…

Friday - - The Big Story -

What is SCNT?

So­matic-Cell Nu­clear Trans­fer or SCNT is a cloning tech­nique used in the lab­o­ra­tory for im­plant­ing donor DNA into an egg cell that has had its own DNA re­moved. The ‘nu­clear’ bit refers to the cell’s nu­cleus, which is the bit within a cell that holds the DNA. The idea is that you take the DNA-laden nu­cleus from ex­tinct an­i­mal A and stick into an egg from abun­dant an­i­mal B, hav­ing first re­moved its own nu­cleus. If suc­cess­ful, the donor A will grow in host egg B.

What is DNA?

If you weren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion dur­ing Juras­sic Park, DNA stands for de­oxyri­bonu­cleic acid. It con­tains all the in­for­ma­tion needed to form an or­gan­ism and is of­ten de­scribed as a set of blue­prints for the cells.

Why can’t we use the Juras­sic Park in­sect-in-am­ber tech­nique?

Be­cause it’s harder than we thought. Ac­cord­ing to Dr David Pen­ney at the Univer­sity of Manch­ester, the idea of ex­tract­ing DNA from an in­sect in am­ber is hard enough, let alone the DNA from a blood meal from an an­i­mal on which it may have fed. But do not de­spair! Sci­en­tists can – the­o­ret­i­cally at least – rein­tro­duce some of those di­nosaur-es­que el­e­ments (teeth, an­kles) to birds by re­verse ge­netic engineering.

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