Hyson's Bisons

In 1997, the Scottish scientists that created Dolly (the famous sheep clone) announced that they had created two transgenic sheep whose milk could help fight hemophilia (Associated Press, 1997). This is because the milk contains Factor IX, which can be injected into the blood system to stop the effects of Hemophilia B (Haemophilia B, 2011).

Cool, but what is Factor IX?

That's a good question. Factor IX, or "The Christmas Factor", is an enzyme which is part of the coagulation system (Factor IX, 2011). Factor IX's primary use in the the beginning of blood clot formation is to create Factor X, which forms with Factor V to create prothrombinase which converts prothrombin to thrombin (Kimball, 2011). Then, thrombin creates a network of Royal1688 fibrin which, along with platletes, creates a blood clot (Kimball, 2011). Here is a diagram to better clarify my explanation:

external image clotting_cascade.png

As can be seen above, the Christmas Factor is also involved in a couple of positive feedback loops. The first of which is when TF 7 (a merge of Tissue Factor and Factor VII) activates Factor IX which merges with Factor VIII and creates more Factor X (Kimball, 2011). And the second is simply when Factor XI, creates more Factor IX which again increases the amount of Factor 10 (Kimball, 2011).

Neat, but what happens if I don't have any Factor IX?!

That's an excellent inquiry. As you could infer from what I've previously stated, without enough Factor IX, your body will not produce as much Factor X, meaning that there won't be as much fibrin to enmesh the platelets, resulting in an inefficient clot (Kimball, 2011). Deficiency of Factor IX causes Hemophilia B, or "The Christmas Disease" (Haemophilia B, 2011). This disease impairs the body's ability to coagulate blood over a wounded blood vessel causing hemophiliacs to bleed longer than the average person (Haemophilia, 2011). This can be particularly problematic when bleeding occurs in vital and sensitive locations such as the inside joints or the brain (Haemophilia, 2011).

Stellar, but how did these savvy Scotts get sheep to produce Factor IX?

That's a good thing to ask. First they needed to isolate the gene that created Factor IX, then they took it and inserted it into the sheep zygote in a process known as pronuclear injection (Darling). This zygote was then placed into a mother to grow (Darling). After cell division, each of the sheep's cells contains the human gene (Darling). A while after birth, when the sheep lactates, it's milk contains small amounts of the substance that is coded by the human gene (Darling).

Groovy, but how do they filter Factor IX out of the milk?

That's an awesome inquisition. I think the second half of this video (starting at 0:54) properly answers your question:

The first half of the video should be disregarded for now, because it explains a process of creating Factor IX that is different from the transgenic sheep. The second half explains that in order to obtain Factor IX for medical purposes, the substance containing Factor IX is first sent through a filter to separate cells, then separated from other proteins by chromatography columns (Wyeth factor IX..., 2009). After that it is washed from the columns, then filtered again to avoid viral contamination (Wyeth factor IX..., 2009). Finally, it is processed and freeze dried for distribution (Wyeth factor IX..., 2009).

Aces, but what are some problems that this genetically modified organism addresses?

That's an amazing query. Well, first and foremost, the production of Factor IX in these sheep solves the problem of where to get factor IX for people suffering from Hemophilia B. It also solves the problem that B-type hemophiliacs have physically, as it gives them the factor IX that they need to set off the reactions (mentioned earlier) that result in a healthy clot. Thirdly, and perhaps most interestingly, continuing the production of transgenic animals will help them solve their own problem of the milk only containing small amounts of Factor IX, because scientists expect that as research continues the yield for this type of production will increase (Darling).

Far-out, but can you list some different points of view on this subject?

That's a delightful disquisition. I sure can.

First Point of View:
The Production of transgenic sheep with Factor IX in their milk should be continued because it helps people with Hemophilia B stay healthy. As I've explained in detail, Factor IX helps the body properly coagulate injuries. Because hemophiliacs, do not normally have enough Factor IX, the milk provides a way for them to obtain it. Once, they've obtained it their chances of losing excessive amounts of blood or being killed by an internal injury decrease (Haemophilia, 2011).

Second Point of View:
The production of transgenic sheep with Factor IX in their milk should be discontinued because it is unethical. For one, it is tampering with natural genetics, which many people view as being "against God's plan" (How should a...) . Secondly, it produces creatures that are living factories for drug companies to harvest, which seems cruel when there are alternative methods of obtaining the these substances that only involve cells in a lab (Wyeth factor IX..., 2009).

Adam Weisse comment on POV 2- If there are alternative methods for obtaining this,, why are the sheep being utilized? If they could just make the product the way you said they could, in a lab, then we wouldn't have the problem in the first place.

Third Point of View:
The Production of transgenic sheep with Factor IX in their milk should be continued because it promotes scientific development. It is already evident that this type of research leads to more research, because these Scottish scientists created these sheep with Factor IX in their milk after their previous research dealing with cloning sheep.

Fourth Point of View:
The production of transgenic sheep with Factor IX in their milk should be discontinued because it is inefficient. First of all, there is a waiting period before the sheep can even lactate, so production is postponed (Darling). Also, the process involves an entire sheep when the drug company that makes Benefix is using relatively tiny, hamster ovaries to do the same thing (Benefix Drug Description, 2008).

Sweet deal, but can you list your citations?

Esé es una pregunta buena. Si:

Associated Press. (1997, December 19). Sheep milk protein may treat hemophilia. Retrieved January 27, 2011, from HighBeam Research website:
Benefix Drug Description. (2008, September 18). Retrieved January 27, 2011, from http://www.rxlist.com/‌benefix-drug.htm
Darling, D. (n.d.). Designer genes. In Genetic engineering: Redrawing the blueprint of life. Retrieved January 27, 2011, from ChIldren’s Encyclopedia of Science database.
Factor IX. (2011, January 21). Retrieved January 27, 2011, from Wikipedia database.
Haemophilia. (2011, January 24). Retrieved January 27, 2011, from Wikipedia database.
Haemophilia B. (2011, January 16). Retrieved January 27, 2011, from Wikipedia database.
How should a Christian view genetic engineering? (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2011, from Got Questions Ministries website: http://www.gotquestions.org/‌genetic-engineering.html
Kimball, J. W. (2011, January 11). Blood Clotting. Retrieved January 27, 2011, from Telecom Services website: http://users.rcn.com/‌jkimball.ma.ultranet/‌BiologyPages/‌C/‌Clotting.html
Wyeth factor IX & recombinant DNA technology - 3D medical animation [Video file]. (2009, October 30). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/‌watch?v=uQkuN24ry2k