Many of us are bored with the reams of media coverage of a Scottish sheep named Dolly, and some of us are scared witless of the potential abuses possible in the name of cloning and bio-genetics. That good can come from such experimentation is being demonstrated in recent months, as reported in a recent issue of The New Yorker.
Also located in Scotland, a company called P.P.L. Therapeutics has a flock of ewes that produce milk containing a substance called alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT). This substance, it is felt, will prove useful in treating cystic fibrosis (CF) -- if PPL is correct, these sheep are worth their weight in gold. Even more to the point, these ewes can generate AAT faster and more efficiently than the normal biotechnology laboratory. Encouraged by all this, PPL has gathered enough AAT to permit it to begin clinical trials that will determine whether inhaling it neutralizes a harmful enzyme in the lungs of people with CF. If successful, PPL's herds of sheep could turn out as much as ten tons of AAT yearly - an impossibility for the average biotech factory.
Although it probably will take two years or more for these trials, even more rapid progress is being made in another area - in Framingham, Massachusetts, where an outfit called Genzyme Transgenics is working with a herd of goats to produce milk with a built-in blood clot regulator. Testing of this is already underway, and results are expected in a year or so.