Unveiled to the world’s press by Ian Wilmut and colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, Scotland on February 22, 1997, Dolly the sheep was the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell. She was actually born a few months earlier on July 5, 1996.
The world was certainly awed when the first superstar sheep Dolly was introduced. It was that date in history when the world first heard about successful cloning. Dolly was a cloned sheep, the first cloned mammal. If Dolly is placed beside a naturally conceived sheep, no obvious differences will be noticed. As a matter of fact, if you really want to know the difference between the two, you would need to go back to the time when they were conceived. Dolly was developed and conceived without a sperm. It all began with the cell of another sheep, fused with the donor egg via electricity. Dolly was made solely from a single sheep and no other.
Indeed, the story of Dolly the sheep is a great leap and breakthrough of science. It was an accomplishment that made everyone wonder who and what will be cloned next by the scientists. Other animals have been cloned since then such as cats, monkeys, cows, pigs and rats. It was believed by the FDA that meat and milk products from cloned animals are safe to consume.
Cloning animals seems to be a benign issue, but is certainly a sensitive topic when it comes to cloning of humans. This concern was addressed by the former US President, Bill Clinton. He signed a moratorium that effectively suspends federal funding of human cloning experiments for five years.
Five years is just a short period. Soon enough, many scientists have claimed to have performed various experiments in human cloning.
A controversial doctor has claimed to have cloned human embryos and transferred them to four women prepared to give birth to the first cloned babies….None of the embryo transfers led to a pregnancy but Dr Zavos, a naturalised American who runs fertility clinics in Kentucky and Cyprus, where he was born, said yesterday that this was just the ‘first chapter’ in his serious attempts at producing a baby cloned from the skin cells of its ‘parent’.
Should human cloning be pursued, scientists will most likely use the SCNT method or Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, the very same procedure that gave birth to Dolly. This procedure commences by taking the egg from a female donor. This egg is then enucleated (the nucleus is removed from the cell). Similarly, the DNA of a person to be cloned will also be derived from his or her cell. The subject’s cell and the enucleated donor cell will be fused together through the application of electricity. An embryo will result from this fusion and will then be implanted via IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) into the surrogate mother’s womb. At the end of the typical period of gestation, the new clone will then be given birth.
In order to determine which side you will support in the debate about human cloning, it will be of use for everyone to know the advantages and the disadvantages posed by cloning that may also be associated with human life.
Benefits of Cloning
- Therapeutic cloning. In this process, the DNA of a person will be used to develop the embryonic clone. The DNA of the patient will be extracted. It will not be inserted into the surrogate mother’s womb. Instead, this cloned embryo will be used for growing stem cells by inserting it into an enucleated egg of a donor. The egg will become fertilized and form an embryo from which stem cells will be extracted from. The stem cells will, in turn, be used as a basis for customized repair kits for humans. The stem cells may be used to replace vital organs like liver, heart and the skin. The patient will not need to wait for a matched donor anymore. Stem cells may also serve as a tool for growing neurons that will help cure disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Your body will readily accept the stem cells since they originated from your own DNA.
- The answer to Infertility. Human cloning is said to benefit couples who are dealing with fertility problems.
- Reverse aging process. A majority of people fear the inevitability of getting old. Nobody wants to look old and loose the beauty, vivacity and opportunities offered by youth. With human cloning as a possible solution to really reverse the aging process, more and more people are considering agreeing with it. This fact is even intensified by the fact that more money may be earned from it, especially now that the anti-aging business is worth multi-millions in cash.
But cloning efforts have been boosted over the last 5-10 years thanks to huge improvements in tools and technologies. With these improvements, scientists still dream of a world where endangered animals can be saved from extinction, and where extinct animals can be miraculously brought back to life.
- Recreation of extinct species and protection for the endangered. If there is one other advantage of human cloning that is really helpful, then this will be it. All of us probably heard about the extinction rate of animal species. While new species are discovered, it is also an undeniable fact that many animals are already dwindling in numbers. Unless we are satisfied to just see them in pictures after several years, then cloning may be a definitive answer. In human cloning, this would mean that a deceased loved one may be brought back to life if the cells or DNA of the dead person is properly preserved. Because of this, some people actually offer money to fund the project on human cloning, just so they can once again be with the deceased loved ones.
A Cloning Poem
Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was slightly grey,
It didn’t have a father, just some borrowed DNA.
It sort of had a mother, though the ovum was on loan,
It was not so much a lambkin, as a little lamby clone.
And soon it had a fellow clone, and soon it had some more,
They followed her to school one day, all cramming through the door.
It made the children laugh and sing, the teachers found it droll,
There were too many lamby clones, for Mary to control.
No other could control the sheep, since their programs didn’t vary,
So the scientists resolved it all, by simply cloning Mary.
But now they feel quite sheepish, those scientists unwary,
One problem solved, but what to do, with Mary, Mary, Mary!
Drawbacks of Cloning
Cloning creates potentially dangerous abnormalities in embryos, researchers have warned at a German conference.
- Disease inheritance. Based on the research conducted by the scientists in Cornell University ( New York, USA), it was found that the embryos of cloned mice have shown significant health problems. Remember that cloning is the exact copy of the original. Cloning can copy positive attributes as well as negative attributes of the original. Abnormalities, deformations, and diseases are also included.
- Gene mutation and health risks. While it is possible that human cloning can bring back a departed person, gene mutation is a problem that is likely to occur. It will certainly be your worst nightmare in case your cloned baby shows signs of mutation. It may bring back joy into your life, but eventually, it will be replaced by even greater heartaches and dilemma. Experiments performed in animal cloning, just like with Dolly, certainly have a lot of failures. In fact, Dolly was the result of other 277 failed experiments. Gene testing and ultrasound scanning cannot actually spot mutations in genes; abnormalities may only develop subsequently.
- Emotional complications. Human cloning certainly involves emotional risks. A cloned child may grow up knowing that her grandmother is actually her mother and her mother is really her sister. Just by this reasoning, you could already be at a great loss. You could just imagine the emotional distress this may bring upon the cloned individual especially during puberty stage when a person is trying to establish her own identity. In fact, she has no identity of her own because she is the exact replica of her mother. Another problem that may likely arise is the possibility of conflict in marriage. The husband will see their child, a cloned child of his wife, grow up. He could possibly fall in love with his own daughter, seeing that she is the same woman he has fallen for a few years ago.
- Technology abuse risk. If in case the human cloning process is pursued, what checks and regulations can be implemented to make certain hungry scientists and greedy people do not abuse it? Suppose the couple successfully cloned their dead baby, but eventually realized that they are not happy about it, what should they do about it? What if powerful leaders discover how to use human cloning for their own purposes?
How about you? Do you approve or disapprove human cloning? Why?