Thursday, October 3, 2013

John Lennon's Lost Molar

A dentist bought a molar for over $30,000 at an auction in 2011. What’s so special about this particular molar is that it belonged to John Lennon and the dentist, Michael Zuk, has big plans for this bit of discolored ivory.  He plans to extract DNA from the tooth.  His objective is to clone the legendary musician, as reported in the Guardian.

The story behind this famous molar unfolds like a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon, when in the mid 1960’s, John Lennon reportedly gave the extracted tooth to his housekeeper.  She in turn, gifted it to her daughter, a big Beatles’ fan.  It stayed in the family until November 2011 when it was sold at auction.

At the time of the auction, the tooth was reportedly too fragile to be DNA tested to confirm that it actually belonged to Lennon.  But as reported by Rolling Stone, the owner of the Omega Auction House which listed the item, verified that because it was coming from Dot Jarlett, Lennon’s housekeeper, there was no doubt about its authenticity.  British housekeepers are evidently legendary for their honesty as well as making great crumpets.

This isn't the first time the dental industry has imposed itself on the affairs of the late Beatle.  Paste Magazine reports, that it was George Harrison’s dentist who, perhaps like Quinn the Eskimo, first introduced the two Beatles, and their wives, to LSD when he added the drug into their coffee cups during a dinner party (Strawberry Fields Forever).

From Lennon’s Tooth to a Lennon
As far as the cloning is concerned, the question is, can it be done?  The answer is yes.  The procedure was first illustrated by a Brit, John Gurdon using frogs; just about the time the Beatles began their career.  Later, in the 1990s, Ian Wilmut of Edinburgh used a similar technique to clone a sheep.  So cloning technology is available and standardized.  The clone of Lennon, produced today, would be genetically the same Beatle, John Lennon.  Still the process is like walking on thin ice.

Setting aside the ethical controversy related to human cloning, there are some additional obstacles. First is the fact that John Lennon was more than a product of his parents.  His experience, education, environment – these all influenced the development of his character, his talents and the legacy he left us.

Second, there are the tricky tasks in preparing for the actual cloning procedure, like harvesting DNA from the tooth, converting tissue cells into stem cells and then transforming those cells into a re-born Lennon.

In light of all of this you’d think the molar owner and dentist, Michael  Zuk, would be dissuaded.  But he remains fixed on his goal, saying that he hopes to “fully sequence” Lennon’s DNA.  He’s seeking headlines by putting out a press release and launching a website revealing that this ambitious dream might just be one of the “best decisions of my (his) life.”

Making a Good Decision

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This blog was originally written by me and published on AFPD Insurance for Professionals' site.

I checked for updates on the status of this cloning endeavor on 11/29/2016, but the most recent is simply a recap of this information by the Washington Times.