BY: RICHARD EDDE
After the two Yeti—that Dr. Harry Olson, an American paleoanthropologist, and his wife, Dixie, brought home from the mountains of Mongolia—escaped from the Cinder Mountain Research Facility and were killed by police, one of the scientists in Harry’s anthropology department at California Pacific University, Dr. Millie Harbaum, uses sperm and an egg, taken from the two Yeti before they escaped, to create a baby Yeti and implants the embryo into a female chimp. But unbeknownst to Harry, Millie has added human DNA to the embryo, actually creating a chimera. When the baby, Roku, is born, he is clearly not a full Yeti, and Millie is forced to confess what she has done. Horrified, the university demands that the infant be destroyed immediately. But Millie flees before they can act, taking Roku with her and unleashing a chain of events that may have deadly consequences, not only for Roku and Millie, but for humanity as well…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Yeti Reborn by Richard Eddie, Dr. Millie Harbaum, a scientist in Dr. Harry’s Olsen’s anthropology department at Cal Pacific University, takes Yeti DNA and mixes it with human DNA at the Cinder Mountain Research Facility, creating a chimera named Roku. When the university president discovers what she has done, he demands that Millie be fired and Roku destroyed. But before Harry can carry out the president’s orders, Millie flees the facility, taking Roku with her. Now the hunt is on to find Millie and Roku before the public discovers what has happened. Little does Millie know that her actions will have far-reaching effects.
The book is both thrilling and educational, giving you a glimpse into the complex world of scientific research while keeping you glued to the edge of your seat.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Yeti Reborn by Richard Edde is the story of a scientist with a dream. Millie Harbaum is a scientist in the anthropology department of Cal Pacific University, working at the university’s research facility in Nevada on the top of Cinder Mountain. After the two Yeti that Harry Olson and his wife Dixie brought back from Mongolia escaped and were killed by police, Millie is brokenhearted. The death of the two creatures has put her research on mapping the genome of the Yeti on hold. But Millie has frozen sperm and eggs taken from the Yeti before they escaped. She convinces Harry to let her implant an embryo into one of the female chimps at the research facility. But what Millie doesn’t tell Harry is that she has added human DNA to the embryo, and the creature will be a chimera. When the baby is born, Millie’s secret is exposed, and the university is outraged. They order Millie to destroy it, but she refuses. She takes the infant and flees. Now Harry’s job is on the line, as well as the safety of humans if the chimera becomes too much for Millie to handle.
Filled with endearing characters, plenty of tension, and fast-paced action, as well as a wealth of fascinating scientific information, Yeti Reborn will catch and hold your interest from beginning to end.
The clock on the wall read three a.m.
A small LED lamp, directed at the area in front of Dr. Millie Harbaum, was the only illumination for the laboratory workspace. The lab was quiet, only the soft purring of air conditioning broke the silence. Alone in the lab, Millie’s heart raced. Huddled over the desk, she peered at the monitor of the dissecting microscope and adjusted the focus. As the small glistening mass of cells came into sharp relief she caught her breath and thought again of what she was about to do. Was she doing the right thing? she wondered. Or was she about to journey across a line that for years science had been forbidden to broach?
Millie pushed back from the desk, took a deep breath, tried to calm herself, and wiped her moist palms on her lab coat. What she once thought a brilliant idea now loomed perilously close to an ethical blunder. But, upon closer reflection, she knew her hand had been forced—forced by a scientific community that did not condone such breakthroughs. Down through history, progress in the sciences had been made by those few men and women who dared to dream the impossible.
Millie dreamed such a dream.
The lab in which she worked was located in the Primate Research Facility on top of a Nevada mountain and was part of the Anthropology Department of California Pacific University. Funded through private donations, the university was located in San Francisco. Millie’s boss, Dr. Miles Radner directed the Primate Research Facility. The facility as a whole and its activities were under the ultimate supervision of the chairman of the department, Dr. Harry Olson. It was Dr. Olson and his team who managed to secure two specimens from Mongolia, the Yeti—a creature once thought only to exist in legends. Dr. Olson and his team of scientists brought the animals to the research facility where, over the following year, they sequenced their entire DNA genome. The work had been difficult and demanding but Millie, who was a graduate research assistant at the time, put her whole life into the project.
Then, there had been a tragic accident. Through a miscalculation of her coworker, both Yeti escaped, killing the coworker in the process. The creatures managed to get off the mountain and terrorized the surrounding countryside, killing a number of people. They were eventually hunted down and destroyed by law enforcement. Everyone, including Dr. Olson, thought it was the end of the Yeti research. Until Millie conceived her experiment.
Now she had her doctorate and was a full-time facility scientist.
And she had a few tricks up her sleeve.
After the deaths of the animals, Dr. Olson gave her the assignment to try and find a way to use the Yeti’s genome. She knew that through the PCR process there was an ample supply of the animal’s DNA. In addition, she and her fellow graduate student collected and stored many Yeti eggs and sperm that were now stored in a freezer down the hallway, waiting to be put to use. Prior to the animal’s escape, Millie injected the female Yeti with HCG, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, forcing the animal to super-ovulate, and with Dr. Siscom’s help, she collected hundreds of ovum. Sperm was recovered by aspirating the male’s testicle while under sedation. The eggs and sperm now sat frozen, without being utilized for the advancement of science. It was such a waste of good material.
During Millie’s sojourn at the research facility she had became emotionally close to the female Yeti whom she named Sasha. When Sasha and her male counterpart, Bentu, were killed, a part of Millie’s soul died along with the animals. But now, she was on the verge of rekindling that emotional tie. On the cusp of recreating the physical presence of Sasha.
But this time it would be different.
The air conditioner whirred, its quiet purring sounding like a sleeping kitten. Millie wiped a strand of hair away from her face, took a deep breath, and said a silent prayer.
She picked up the micropipette that lay on a tray beside the Olympus inverted phase contrast microscope workstation and video monitor. The microscope, suitable for viewing colorless and transparent specimens and live cells, was equipped with a pressure injector connected to a micromanipulator. She stared at it for a moment. Earlier, she had filled the pipette with her own DNA, her exclusive human genome, genetic material that made her unique of all women.
Millie Harbaum’s DNA.
Millie sat back from the video monitor, blinked, then rubbed her face with bare hands. She was tired, nearly exhausted. Glancing around the laboratory, she waited for her eyes to adjust. As they rested, the walls and shelves slowly sharpened in her vision. She took a deep breath then returned to her work. After adjusting again the focusing knob and the diaphragm lever, she squinted at the monitor. Her hand trembled slightly as she fixed the micropipette to the capillary holder and, observing the video monitor, brought it to the edge of the cell membrane. Sasha’s egg cell glimmered in its nutrient solution as she set the injection time and pressure.
Her head swirled with the thought of what she was about to do. She hesitated, momentarily unsure if she wished to proceed, then tried to will her rapid pulse to slow.
Holding her breath, Millie adjusted the scope’s focus one last time then pierced the cell membrane with the micropipette. Using a slow deliberate movement with the micromanipulator, she guided the needle into the cell’s nucleus, pushed the injector and watched the DNA material flow into it. The nucleus bulged briefly then returned to its original shape. After retracting the pipette, Millie took a few moments to observe the cell. Like all cells throughout the animal kingdom it appeared as nothing more than an indistinct sphere under the phase contrast microscope. Satisfied the procedure had gone well, she sat back and took another deep breath.
The clock on the wall read three-twenty a.m.
Millie knew she was embarking on a journey from which there would be no return. Creating another Sasha with her own DNA implanted in its genome was dangerously close to crossing an ethical line never done before. It was one thing to attempt to reproduce a Yeti but to attempt to incorporate her own human DNA into the resulting animal was something never before attempted. It was her hope to create a chimera—DNA from two different species in one organism.
The ethical and moral implications were astronomical.
After receiving her PhD, Millie took Dr. Olson’s offer and became the associate director at the research facility, a position Dr. Radner used to complete all the drudgery work he had no interest in doing. She had a myriad of administrative chores, leaving precious little time to devote to her research. Her genetic engineering project was done solely by her without the help of any other scientists at the facility and certainly without Radner or Dr. Olson’s knowledge. She knew what they would say if they knew. Shut it down. And she couldn’t have that.
Millie had no idea what to expect if her experiment succeeded. She had just fertilized this egg with her own DNA. Now, it was time to incubate the zygote until such time when she would implant it into one of the facility’s chimps. Later, and she had yet to work out all the details, she would force delivery of a newborn Yeti.
A newborn Yeti that had her genes in its genome.
What would it look like, she wondered? It would be half Yeti, half human. Was she unleashing a scientific monster in the legacy of golden age horror movies?
She took the Petri dish from the dissecting scope, covered it, and placed it in the thermal convection incubator. Returning to her chair at the workstation, she turned off the light and sat in the dark contemplating what she had done. It was not too late. She could destroy the cell. She knew at some point she would have to tell Dr. Radner and Dr. Olson of her experiment but she decided to wait until she was forced to do so. Once the embryo was successfully implanted into a chimp.
She was aware that several bioethicists called for a ban on species-altering technologies that would be enforced by an international tribunal. Part of the rationale for this ban was the concern that such technologies could be used to create a slave race, that is, a race of sub-humans that could be exploited. Earlier in the decade, two scientists who were both opposed to genetically modified organisms applied for a patent for a humanzee—part human and part chimpanzee—to intentionally fuel debate on the issues and draw attention to potential abuses. The United States Patent and Trademark Office denied the patent on the grounds that it violated the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which explicitly prohibited slavery.
The prospect of bioengineered life forms raised important questions about how a person was defined in both legal and ethical terms.
Although the USPTO permitted the extensive patenting of bioengineered life forms, the question raised by the scientists’ application was one that could easily be resolved by answering a simple question. What constitutes a person? A genetic definition was not very helpful, given the variability of gene sequences between individuals. And a species definition could be controversial. When experts looked to specific characteristics for a definition, they were faced with the fact that humans shared many characteristics with primates and other animals, so where could they draw the line?
If science created a being that had the ability to speak and perhaps even reason, but looked like a dog or a chimp, should that creation be given all the rights and protection traditionally bestowed upon a person? Some bioethicists argued that the definition of human being should be more expansive and protective, rather than more restrictive. Others argued that more expansive definitions could minimize humanity’s status and create a financial disincentive to patenting creations that could be of potential use.
The question of whether the definition should be more expansive or restrictive would ultimately be considered as courts, legislatures, and institutions address laws regarding genetic discrimination.
Opponents of genetic manipulation feared the prospect of creating a race of super-humans, while proponents supported the right to give children every advantage.
In a similar vein, the medical director of the International Olympic Committee expressed concern that athletes employ genetic engineering to get an edge over their competition. If individuals were willing to genetically manipulate their children to make them better athletes, then it was likely that individuals would be willing to manipulate their children to better looking, more musically inclined, or whatever else might give them an advantage. Opponents of genetic manipulation argue that, by allowing this, we run the risk of creating a race of superhumans, changing what it means to be normal and increasing the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. Proponents argue that currently parents can and do give their children advantages by sending them to better schools or giving them growth hormones, and that banning genetic manipulation is a denial of individual liberties. Finally, Millie realized, these arguments reflected the opposing philosophies regarding how scarce resources would and should be allocated in the future.
But she was a scientist and not an ethicist or moralist. She knew she would proceed and go wherever the science took her.
It had not been an easy year for the Anthropology Department of California Pacific University and its chairman, Dr. Harry Olson. Funding shortfalls, budget constraints, and a hiring freeze, coupled with a downturn in the economy, left Harry’s department thin in faculty members and research money.
He tried to relax in his chair as he gazed out the large window toward San Francisco Bay. It was an overcast day with low clouds rolling in off the Pacific. Now and then, a weak sun managed to shine through the cloudbank sending golden rays that dappled the water’s surface like diamonds. Below his office window, the trees that lined the university faculty parking lot wavered in a stiff breeze.
He spent the morning working on the yearly allocation of funds entrusted to his department, budgeting how much money each faculty member would receive for their research projects. As usual, there were always more requests than available funds. A few of the scientists in his department had obtained their own federal funding, but most relied on the allotments Harry granted them. Allotments that came through the generosity of private donors. Since his own pet project, the Yeti at the Primate Research Facility, had been scrubbed with the animal’s deaths, the big contributors had gone elsewhere. As long as the pair of animals was alive and making news, money flowed into the university coffers like a never-ending river. But when law enforcement exterminated Bentu and Sasha after they killed a graduate assistant and escaped into the Nevada Mountains, Cal Pacific became just another small university, struggling to make ends meet.
Glancing at the clock, he realized it was time for lunch with his wife. Dixie was his former graduate assistant on the Mongolia expedition when he first discovered the Yeti. After returning home, she finished her PhD dissertation, and they were married. Now she held a faculty position in his department. She was popular among the students, and her classes were always the first to fill up each semester. Harry donned his sport coat and hurried to the faculty dining room where he found Dixie pacing at its entrance.
“Sorry I’m late, hon,” he said, “but I was in the middle of the budget.”
Dixie rolled her eyes but flashed him an easy smile. She looked especially beautiful today, he thought. A perky blonde with a turned-up nose and startling blue eyes, Dixie met his gaze with an enigmatic look.
“Your favorite chore, I know,” she said. She took him by an arm and led him into the dining room. “Come on, I’m starved. They’re having clam chowder today.”
After getting their food, they found a table in a corner next to a bank of windows. The dining room was only half full of faculty members, most of whom were liberal arts professors. The carpeted floor muffled the sound of the chatter. Dixie talked while Harry sipped his iced tea.
“I think all my students will turn out to be dunces this semester,” she said, spooning up a mouthful of chowder. “It’s going to be a long term, I’m afraid.”
Harry smiled. Her green eyes sparkled, causing his heart to skip a beat.
“Well, you can’t expect every semester to have students like your last one.”
“I suppose not,” Dixie said. “That was an unusual group to be sure. They all worked extremely hard. I was very proud of them.”
“Pauling wants to meet with me later this afternoon.”
“The usual, in all likelihood,” Harry said. “This time of year it can only mean the budget. Maybe issues with notable alums.”
“Is he still reeling from the Yeti incident?” Dixie took a bite of her roll followed by more chowder.
“I dunno. I think he’s pretty much over that fiasco. At least the papers have stopped hounding him. You know, dear, the deaths of those animals hit me harder than I expected. I was really invested in them and the research our team was doing.”
“I know,” Dixie said. “I don’t think I’m over it all yet, either. Were you and the other scientists able to salvage anything from the project?”
“Millie Harbaum is working on that as we speak. Earlier, we sequenced the animal’s genome in its entirety, so that is a great step forward. Hopefully, Millie can point us in a new direction with materials we saved from the many months spent working with the creatures.”
“I still have bad dreams about those last few days, especially when we were trying to track them before the sheriff’s helicopter discovered them. Sometimes I wake up after seeing the animals standing there, just looking at what was about to befall them. Then the sheriff and the strike force cut them down like sitting ducks. Torching their bodies. It still makes me sick, Harry.”
“I know, dear, I know. I don’t think I’m cut out for running a department as large and varied as ours.” Harry took several bites of his chowder as his wife waited for him to continue. “I’m much more a field research anthropologist. I miss the excitement of the search and eventual discovery.”
“We need a vacation, honey,” Dixie said. “Maybe after you’re through with the budget we can get away for a few days. I would like that.”
“Yeah. Good idea. Maybe Hawaii or something like that.”
“Oh, Hawaii, Harry?” Dixie said, her eyes noticeably brighter. “How wonderful. I’ll go online and check on some possibilities. Just the two of us. It sounds divine.”
Finished with his soup, Harry started on his pie. He worried that his wife still had problems dealing with the loss of the Yeti, but it was a fact he could not change. It had been almost two years since their expedition to Mongolia where they first discovered evidence of the Yeti’s actual existence and located them high in the Altai Mountains. In a bizarre turn of events, Dixie was kidnapped by the creatures and kept prisoner in a deep cave system before Harry and the Mongolian police rescued her. If he had not been there to witness it, he would never have believed they were capable of such human-like actions. It was his first realization that these animals were highly intelligent. After the team had a chance to study the animal’s genetics, they turned out to be distantly related to humans in a similar way the Neanderthals were related.
Then, during a return expedition, two of the Yeti were captured and brought back to the research facility in Nevada, where they were subjected to closer investigation.
Harry and Dixie both invested a tremendous amount of time, money, and personal commitment to the study of the Yeti.
Now they were gone.
Dixie wiped her mouth with a napkin then finished her tea. “I have papers to grade, so I’ll come by your office later this afternoon.” She shot him a quick smile and left the dining room, leaving Harry to continue mulling over past events.
When he came to Cal Pacific University to study anthropology, his first professor was Dr. Julius Kesler. It wasn’t long before the man assumed the role of Harry’s surrogate father and took the young graduate student under his wing. A bond formed between the two men, with the Professor, as he was affectionately called, inviting Harry to his home on a regular basis. It was Professor Kesler who put together the initial expedition to Mongolia in search of hominid fossils, and he selected Harry to be his expedition leader.
Shortly after the return expedition to Mongolia brought two Yeti back to the research center, Professor Kesler died from a sudden, unexpected heart attack. The loss left Harry disconnected from his anchor, his mentor, the only man who ever mattered to him. But it was Kesler’s wish that Harry succeed him as departmental chairman, so with Dixie’s support, he managed to lead his fellow faculty members through the intervening difficult months. Initially, after the loss of the Yeti, he wanted to organize another expedition to Mongolia to replace them but finding the necessary funding proved difficult. Especially since innocent people had been killed by the creatures.
Through the difficult and arduous work by Dr. Harbaum, the Yeti’s complete genome was now known. And their genetics revealed a startling fact—the Yeti were more closely related to Homo sapiens than the Neanderthals. Millie, by analyzing endogenous retroviruses in the genome, determined the Yeti line split off the evolutionary bush only about 25,000 years ago.
Endogenous retroviruses were endogenous viral elements in the genome that closely resembled and could be derived from retroviruses. They were abundant in the genomes of jawed vertebrates, and they occupied up to eight percent of the human genome. Endogenous retroviruses provided yet another example of molecular sequence evidence for universal common descent. Endogenous retroviruses were molecular remnants of a past parasitic viral infection.
Occasionally, copies of a retrovirus genome were found in its host’s genome, and these retroviral gene copies were called endogenous retroviral sequences. Retroviruses, like the AIDS virus or HTLV1, which caused a form of leukemia, made a DNA copy of their own viral genome and inserted it into their host’s genome. If this happens to a germ line cell, for example, the sperm or egg cells, the retroviral DNA would be inherited by descendants of the host. Again, this process was rare and fairly random, so finding retrogenes in identical chromosomal positions of two different species indicated common ancestry.
Harry wandered back to his office. Along the way, he decided to stop and see Dr. Chloe Rawlings, director of Cal Pacific’s DNA lab. He opened the door and was greeted by the soft whirring of a multitude of electronic machines at work. A woman in a white lab coat stood with her back to him at the lab’s far end.
“Knock, knock,” Harry said.
The woman turned and, upon seeing Harry, waved and approached him. She was tall, had straw-colored hair that fell loosely on her shoulders, and she wore wire-rimmed glasses.
“Out slumming the halls, Harry?” the woman said.
They both laughed.
“As a matter of fact, Chloe, I just had lunch with Dixie,” he said. “I thought I’d stop and see how you were doing.”
“How is your wife?” Chloe said, a broad smile on her face.
“She’s fine. Struggling with her classes, however.”
“Tell her welcome to the club. Want to talk in my office?”
Harry nodded, and Dr. Rawlings led the way to a small cramped office in a corner of the lab. There were books and journals piled high on a table at the side of Rawling’s desk. She indicated a chair. Harry dropped into it and sighed.
“You look as though you lost your last friend, Harry,” she said. “What’s the matter?”
“Oh, nothing really. I just needed to get away from the office for a while. The phone rings constantly, my secretary has all sorts of questions that need answering, and the budget looms ever-present on my desk.”
Chloe poured two cups of coffee and handed one to Harry. Her eyes sparkled as he took it then leaned back in his chair.
“Poor Harry,” she said. “The chairmanship getting you down?”
“I guess. I do miss the classroom. But most of all I miss the field. Digging in the earth. Looking for skeletons. I was just saying that very thing to Dixie. I’m not sure I was cut out to be an administrator.”
“I can relate to that,” Chloe said. “Doing most of the forensic DNA analysis for the county has left me with precious little time for my own research. Pauling has me working overtime for the San Francisco Police Department.”
“Good ole Dr. Pauling. The administrator’s administrator. Good grief, the man actually likes all that paper shuffling.” He took a sip of his coffee.
“How is the primate facility doing these days, Harry? By the way, I never did extend my sympathies for what happened to your Yeti.”
“Thanks, Chloe. The facility is still going strong, although the work generated by the Yeti is now in limbo. Since their deaths, nothing is moving forward. There’s data to be analyzed but…” His voice trailed off as he attempted to organize his thoughts.
“I can imagine how hard it must be without actual specimens.”
“We need to return to Mongolia and obtain more animals,” Harry said, his pulse quickening. “It’s that simple. But there’s no grant money available, and, since the tragedy, no private investors want their name on such a project.”
“I do understand, Harry,” Chloe said.
“You, Chloe, on the other hand, are a money maker for the university. Pauling probably gives you anything you want.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said, standing. He set his cup down. “I must sound like I’m whining. Thanks for the coffee.”
He ambled to Rawling’s office door. In the doorway, he paused. Chloe smiled broadly.
“Cheer up, Harry. Go home, mix yourself a drink, take Dixie to dinner, and forget today. Things will get better.”
“Thanks for listening,” he said.
© 2018 by Richard Edde