ScienceThrillers.com welcomes author Larry Constantine, who got my attention with the blurb from legendary DNA scientist George Church for his upcoming new release The Intaglio Imprint. The book delves into bioethics and reproductive cloning. Constantine writes under the pen name Lior Samson and has created (to date) ten science-tinged thrillers. It’s about time we got him here for a guest post!
The Intaglio Imprint by Lior Samson. Science thriller (September 1, 2017)
Dan Bradman, a reporter with a leading European financial newspaper, is trying to uncover the complicated truth about the estate of Arturo Dermott, a recluse and one of the world’s richest, most prolific inventors. A handwritten note found in an archive in Rome turns a routine assignment into a convoluted quest. He and Italian archivist Francesca Zingari are launched on a dangerous detour that leads to unlikely informants in Valencia, to secret labs in China, and to a young man growing up in Boston who struggles to understand and come to terms with an invisible past that sets him apart. He is not who he thinks he is, but neither is he the person those around him think he is.
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“If Geneticist George Church Likes Your Book…”
Guest post by author Larry Constantine
Getting the science right is a goal of any worthy writer, but it is not always easy, especially when background research takes you far afield or to the edges of current scientific capabilities. Under my pen name Lior Samson, I write provocative page-turners that I hope leave readers pondering what they have read. To get the details right, I draw on subject-matter experts to review manuscripts.
If genetic engineering and cloning are pivotal to your story line, it would be hard to find a better subject-matter expert than Harvard geneticist George Church. A contributor to the development of the CRISPR-cas9 gene editing technique that has revolutionized genetic manipulation, Church is a science superstar who keeps popping up in mainstream media. Among projects his lab is pursuing is developing a line of cloned “humanized” pigs whose organs could be harvested and transplanted to people without triggering a destructive immune response. He is also collaborating in “de-extinction” research to bring back the wooly mammoth.
I met Church at a panel discussion on the ethics and morality of human genetic engineering. We started a dialogue, and he offered to read and give feedback on the new Lior Samson thriller, The Intaglio Imprint. He loved it and wrote the following cover blurb.
My perch provides a unique view to attest to the super-realism and compelling rationale of this ethically probing tale, … which resonates with my experience as member of a team producing pig clones to save lives via transplantation. … [The title] could not be a more powerful and apt metaphor — when a strand of DNA is copied you get a complementary molecule, not a copy. I recommend … this intricate and incisive creation.
The Intaglio Imprint is a multilayered story—part science fiction, part suspense—a story of love, loss, and legacy that takes a penetrating plunge into the ethical complexities of modern genetic science. It begins with an accidental discovery by a financial reporter trying to sort out the complicated truth about the estate of a reclusive—and very rich—inventor. He and a companion are launched on a dangerous detour that leads to unlikely informants in Valencia, to secret labs in China and South Korea, and to a young man growing up in Boston who struggles to understand and come to terms with who he is and what sets him apart from his peers.
The endorsement by Church reassured me that the science and the story are a good fit. The science of genetic engineering and reproductive cloning has come a long way since the birth of Dolly the sheep in 1996, the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell, but the basic techniques are still much the same. Genetic material is extracted from an adult cell, either an adult somatic cell or one with induced pluripotency, the ability to give rise to a full variety of tissue types. This genetic material is inserted into an egg from which the original genetic material has been removed. This egg is then tricked into thinking it has been fertilized so that it begins to divide into a multi-celled blastocyst. The blastocyst is implanted into the uterus of a surrogate, where, if all goes well, it grows into a fetus and eventually into a viable new organism..
That’s the idea. In reality, the process is not yet fully understood nor fully reproducible, and many of the embryos fail to develop properly. Out of the 277 fertilized eggs and 29 implanted embryos in that first research, only Dolly survived to adulthood. Many cloned embryos turn out to have defects of one kind or another that result in spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, or early death. The yield has been improved in some cases, but the results are still far from perfect. And that may be the biggest technical barrier to human cloning.
Research on human reproductive cloning itself is not actually permitted anywhere in the world today. Still, every step forward in cloning other mammals—whether sheep, dogs, or pigs—or in therapeutic cloning to create human cell cultures and organs for transplant, is a potential advance toward human cloning. From the science we know, there do not appear to be fundamental biological barriers to human reproductive cloning, but deeper questions remain: Should such research ever be undertaken? At what price and with what consequences?
About the Author:
Larry Constantine is an award-winning journalist and author who writes fiction under his pen name, Lior Samson. His tenth novel, The Intaglio Imprint, to be released in September 2017, is available for pre-order on Amazon. His previous books include a double-novel about radical life-extension, The Rosen Singularity – The Millicent Factor, and the six science-and-technology infused novels of The Homeland Connection: Bashert, The Dome, Web Games, Chipset, Gasline, and Flight Track. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org