Spending $31,000 for one of John Lennon’s teeth in 2011 was only the start of Michael Zuk’s strange behavior: The Canadian dentist wants to clone the late Beatles legend, and his mad-scientist plan to do so is moving forward.
Recently, Zuk sent the 50-plus-year-old tooth to a lab, hoping to find a shred of genetic data that would help sequence Lennon’s DNA.
“I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon’s DNA, very soon I hope,” Zuk said in a statement on his John Lennon Tooth site. “With researchers working on ways to clone mammoths, the same technology certainly could make human cloning a reality.”
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Human cloning is still mostly the stuff of science fiction, but pulling DNA from old teeth is not. Researchers have even extracted DNA from the pulp — the material in the very center of a tooth — of a 4,000-year-old mummy tooth. But there’s no word yet on whether Lennon’s tooth will provide enough material to do anything. In addition, it was rotten to begin with and has not had the protection provided by burial in an ancient pyramid. When Lennon lost the tooth in the 1960s and, he gave it to his housekeeper for some reason. She then handed down the family heirloom to her son, who later sold it. We likely won’t know how the tooth’s condition affects Zuk’s plans; he plans to keep the results confidential.
If Zuk can grab some actual Lennon DNA, he believes he has a windfall on his hands — but the tooth has already proved to be a (sort of) sensible purchase. Sans the DNA angle, it has already toured the U.K. to promote charities and landed Zuk on TV for his odd hobby.
Whether or not Zuk succeeds in his plan (and whether or not that would actually be a good idea), one thing can be learned from this story: Even if you’re a rock star, don’t forget to floss.