The process of cloning is the process of using the genes of a being to create another being genetically identical to it. Cloning technology has been called the “forbidden fruit of biology” (Begley 54). For years, scientists have been trying to perfect the cloning technique. In Scotland, scientists at the
Roslin Institute have finally succeeded. Their success comes in the form of a Finn Dorset ewe named Dolly.
Dolly is a clone. Now that the cloning of mammals from body cells has been accomplished, we are forced to consider what stand must be taken on the issue of cloning human beings, and also examine the
effect of popular culture on our perceptions of cloning.
Dolly’s case is not the first example of cloning. A man named Hans Spemann first envisioned cloning in 1938. He suggested transferring the nucleus of an embryo into another egg. As early as 1952, two scientists, Robert Briggs and T.
J. King attempted what Spemann had suggested with a frog embryo and egg. Unfortunately, the frog egg did not develop. (Specter/Kolata)
That same year, researchers in Pennsylvania cloned a live frog. The technique used was known as embryo twinning, or causing the embryo to split apart. It is much easier to clone with embryonic cells.
Much later, mammals such as sheep were cloned using this process. (Nash 64)
In 1970, John Gurdon repeated the procedure suggested by Hans Spemann. This time, the experiment yielded partial success. The tadpoles were born alive, but they died when they began to feed. He showed that transplanted nuclei reverted to an embryonic state.
In the early 1980’s, there was some controversy over the reported cloning of mice.
Karl Illmensee and Peter Hoppe claimed that they had cloned mice from embryos. Other scientists tried to repeat their success, and they reported that mouse embryos could not be used for cloning after reaching the two-cell stage. The claims of Illmensee and Hoppe were discredited. (Specter/Kolata)
In the 1980’s, biologists at Allegheny University of the Health Sciences cloned tadpoles from the red blood cells of an adult frog. The tadpoles could swim and eat just like normal tadpoles. They grew hind limbs, but died halfway through metamorphosis.
In1993, defective human embryos scheduled to be discarded by a fertility clinic were cloned. Scientists teased apart the cells from seventeen embryos (each two to eight cells in size) and grew each cell separately, ending up with several genetically identical embryos. (Begley 54-56)
In 1994, calves were cloned by Neal First from embryos that had grown to at least 12 cells in size. He pioneered the technique of starving the cells of nutrients to make them undifferentiated (chromosomes folds up so that only the parts needed to perform a particular cell’s function are exposed). Dr. Ian Wilmut copied this technique in 1996, when he cloned sheep from embryo cells.
Dr. Ian Wilmut, the head scientist at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland, is Dolly’s creator. He is fifty-two years old, and he makes $60,000 a year working at Scotland’s top research laboratory.
If his breakthrough yields commercial success, he only stands to make about $25,000 in royalties. He does not mind, because his true desire is to understand things.
Wilmut’s goal is to produce livestock that serve humanity by producing proteins and providing superior milk, meat, eggs or wool. He has been involved in reproductive science for years. In 1973 he produced the first calf grown from a frozen embryo. This enabled cattle breeders to improve the quality
of their herds by using surrogate mothers to breed more of the cows with the best milk and meat.
Dolly was born conceptually in a bar in 1986, when Dr. Wilmut heard a rumor that a lamb had been cloned from an already developing embryo.
This rumor was indeed true; Dr. Steen M. Willadsen had produced the first mammal clone. He had attempted to clone three lambs. Two were born dead, but the
His first success came in the forms of Megan and Morag, two clone sheep that Wilmut cloned from early embryos using the nutrient starving technique pioneered by Dr.
Neal First. The two sheep now share a pen with Dolly. Megan .