On February 24, 1997, the whole world was shocked by the news that Scottish scientists had successfully cloned a sheep. Dolly an artificially cloned mammal was born a star. After the shock, that cloning was not only a possibility but a reality, wore off the out cry against human cloning began. Physicians, scientists, politicians and church leaders and many more have been trying to ban the cloning of humans ever since.
Is cloning something to be afraid of? I do not believe it is. I believe that cloning will become a tool of science that will, in time, bring many benefits to humankind. The Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia describes a clone as “an organism by an asexual (nonsexual) reproductive process”(clone 1). This definition means that we already have many clones on the earth today. The Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia also states that “the organisms known as prokaryotes (the bacteria and cyanobacteria), a number of other simple organisms, such as most protozoan, many other algae, and some yeasts, also reproduce primarily by cloning, as do certain higher organisms like the dandelion or aspen tree”(clone 1). The Biology Textbook Concepts and Connections describes a clone as “a single organism that is genetically identical to another”(G-5).Order now
With this definition we can come to the conclusion that identical twins are also clones. Cloning then is not a new idea but one that has been around since the beginning of time. Embryo Splitting or Blastomere SeparationEmbryo splitting as Gregory Pence, a medical ethicist, writes is when “an embryo that has already been formed by sexual reproduction is split into two identical halves”(Flesh My Flesh: intro). The National Bioethics Advisory Committee calls this process blasotmere separation and explains that “each cell, called a blastomere, is able to produce a new individual organism”(15). See Appendix A figure one. Pence also writes that embryo splitting is “a process that has been used for years to help infertile couples who could not produce enough embryos, it is neither a breakthrough nor startling”(Flesh My Flesh: x).
Nuclear Somatic Transfer or Nuclear Transplantation CloningIn nuclear somatic transfer a nucleus is taken from the cell of an already existing person and placed into a fertilized egg which has had its nucleus removed. The egg cell is then stimulated to divide and grow. Thereby producing a clone or twin of the person whose DNA was used. This is the manner in which Dolly was created (Whos Afraid Cloning 11). Clones Are Not Always Completely IdenticalIn Embryo Splitting the clones would be identical twins. However, in Nuclear Somatic Transfer, where most of the controversy lies, a clone will not necessarily be an identical twin.
The reasons for this lie in the host egg. Although the nucleus is removed, and therefore the majority of the DNA, it is impossible to remove all the DNA. The mitochondria (tiny organelles in the cell) contain tiny bits of DNA. Because of these mitochondria DNA a cloned person may not be completely identical to the person whose DNA was used(Whos Afraid Cloning 18). Please see diagram labeled figure four in appendix A. Therapeutic cloning could be used to clone any of the body’s tissues.
This does not involve cloning an entire person but only the tissue needed. Please see diagram labeled “the ultimate body repair kit” in appendix A. In an on-line scientific magazine Andy Coghlan discusses therapeutic cloning and how it is done. He writes that “therapeutic cloning would use the technique that created Dolly the sheep to grow cells for transplants that are matched to their recipients – for instance to replace the brain cells lost in Parkinsons disease”(1:3). Many thousands of people die every year while waiting for an organ transplant or as a result of tissue rejection.
With therapeutic cloning there is no chance of rejection as it is your tissue that is cloned. Think of how wonderful it would be if one of your family members or even you yourself could be saved because of therapeutic cloning. In the normal reproductive process many chromosomal abnormalities can occur during meiosis in the testes of men and the ovaries of women. When this happens if the child is born it can have major birth defects. Downs Syndrome is one such defect and is a result of an extra chromosome on the 21st chromosomal pair. The risk of having a Downs Syndrome baby increases with the age of the woman wishing to have a baby.
Gina Kolata points out in her book Clone that”with cloning, such chromosomal mixups sic cannot occur,after all, you are starting with a normal cell, from a normal adult, with the proper number of chromosomes”(238). Cloning would also be very beneficial to people who are carriers of such diseases as sickle-cell anemia and Tay-Sachs Disease and cystic fibrosis. As they have only one gene for these diseases and it requires two genes to have the disease they are normal healthy adults, but they would not wish to pass on these genetic defects to their children. It its report to the president of the United States the National Bioethics Advisory Commission wrote of just one such scenario where both the husband and the wife are carriers of a lethal gene. “Rather than risk the one in four chance of conceiving a child who will suffer a short and painful existence, the couple considers the alternatives: to forgo rearing children; to adopt; to use prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion; to use donor gametes free of the recessive trait; or to use the cells of one of the adults and attempt to clone a child.
To avoid donor gametes and selective abortion while maintaining a genetic tie to their child, they opt for cloning(85). One of the arguments, that has been heard against cloning, is that to many potential babies are lost because it takes so many embryos to make one baby. However when the septuplets were born, with fertility drugs, in November of 1997 everyone rejoiced that such a feat was possible. Everyone seems to ignore the fact that a lot of multiply-gestated babies are born disabled or dead (Flesh of my Flesh 119). What about having a baby the usual way? Professor Gregory Pence explains that “at least 40% of human embryos fail to implant in normal sexual reproduction”.
He also noted that “about 50% of the rejected embryos are chromosomally abnormal, meaning that if they were somehow brought to term, the resulting children would be mutants or suffer genetic dysfunction”(Flesh of my Flesh 119). How about in vitro fertilization? Pence points out that “on average in in vetro fertilization. . . it will take 900 embryos to produce 30 babies, for an efficiency rate of 1 in 30″(Flesh of my Flesh 120).
The Biology Place states that “it took 277 cell fusions. . . to produce one Dolly”(Kimball 1).
Please consider that Dolly is only the first of her kind and the technique will become much more efficient before it is ever tried on humans. Altogether I feel that cloning will definitely benefit humanity. It may do this by allowing people, who are not able to by other, means to have children. Cloning may be used to grow new organs for people who would otherwise die while waiting for a donor match.
It may help couples, who have defective genes, to have a child that is free of birth defects and disease. I do feel however that cloning must be used with caution. Every new invention or discovery has the potential to be used improperly and immorally and it is up to us, the public, to ensure that the proper laws are put in place. We should not ban cloning just because we are afraid of it.
Rather we should study it and use it as a tool to benefit not just ourselves but the whole world. Bibliography:Pence, Gregory E. , Flesh of my Flesh: the Ethics of Cloning Humans. Lanham, Boulder, New York, Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield PublishersInc. , 1998. —.
Whos Afraid of Human Cloning. Lanham, Boulder, New York, Oxford:Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc. , 1998. Campbell, Neil A.
, Lawrence G. Mitchell and Jane B. Reece, Biology:Concepts and Connections, Third Edition. Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. , 1999. —.
Kimballs Biology Essays: Can Humans Be Cloned. The Biology Place. Online. 1999. http://www. biology.
com/Kimbell/C/CloningMammals. htmlEncarta EncyclopediaUnited States. National Bioethics Advisory Committee. Cloning Human Beings volume 1: Report and Recommendations. ?????