More On Cloning

by : Andrew Sandon

It was only in the last 250 years that scientists began speaking about chromosomes and genes and the role they play in the way one generation passes its traits on to the next. Only 30 years ago scientists have been able to describe specific genes from one organism and put them in another. But, at the end of XX century the first successful cloning was made (Dolly the sheep).
Today, cloning considered as the most progressive science, as well as the most controversial one. The paper discusses the cloning research from two perspectives: scientific and ethical. Both side of the question is important because cloning is one of the promising scientific fields is still under attack and restrictions which prevent further investigations. The new technology and discoveries in this field allow to find unique and universal remedy for many incurable diseases such as spinal cord injuries, cancer, Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, etc. The main advantage of cloning is that it becomes possible to treat causes of the diseases before they progress, but still, cloning is prohibited in many countries.
There are three types of cloning: embryo (therapeutic), reproductive and biochemical cloning. Reproductive cloning is a technology used to generate an animal that has the same nuclear DNA as another currently or previously existing animal. In a process called "somatic cell nuclear transfer", scientists transfer genetic material from the nucleus of a donor adult cell to an egg whose nucleus, and thus its genetic material, has been removed.
Reproductive cloning is expensive and highly inefficient. More than 90% of cloning attempts fail to produce viable offspring. For instance, Japanese researchers examined that cloned mice live in poor health and die early. About a third of the cloned calves born alive have died young, and many of them were abnormally large. Many cloned animals have not lived long enough to generate good data about how clones age. Appearing healthy at a young age unfortunately is not a good indicator of long term survival (Wertz, 2002).
Therapeutic cloning, also called "embryo cloning," is the production of human embryos for use in research. The goal of this process is not to create cloned human beings, but rather to harvest stem cells that can be used to study human development and to treat disease. Stem cells are important to biomedical researchers because they can be used to generate virtually any type of specialized cell in the human body.
In November 2001, scientists from Advanced Cell Technologies, a biotechnology company in Massachusetts, announced that they had cloned the first human embryos for the purpose of advancing therapeutic research. The results were limited in success. Although this process was carried out with eight eggs, only three began dividing, and only one was able to divide into six cells before stopping" (Mahowald, 2003). This type of cloning gives a lot of perspectives to the science. Therapeutic cloning technology may some day be used in humans to produce whole organs from single cells or to produce healthy cells that can replace damaged cells in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

The third type of cloning is a biomedical cloning. It means the transfer of a DNA fragment of interest from one organism to a self-replicating genetic element such as a bacterial plasmid. The DNA can then be propagated in a foreign host cell. This technology has been around since the 1970s, and it has become a common practice in molecular biology laboratories today (Wertz, 2002).
The ethical issues are so important because embryonic stem cells are also hard to control, and hard to grow in a reliable way. In 1997 group of scientists led by Dr. Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute (Scotland), cloned the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly. When the scientists cloned, the cloning technique somatic cell nuclear transfer was used. is a fully grown mammal, with her DNA coming from a single cell taken from her mother-egg, which is fused with the mammary cell.
The fused cell then develops into an embryo, which is implanted in a "surrogate" sheep. The embryo grows into a lamb, which is genetically identical to the donor sheep. The announcement of her birth in February 1997 started the current fascination in all things cloned. It was a success, this scientists say that cloning procedure was not perfect. It took more than 277 attempts before "Dolly" was created as a health viable lamb (Campbell, Kind, McWhir, Schnieke, Wilmut, Ian, 1997).
Human cloning is far more complicated, with greater risks and potentials for error. As a result, scientists fear that applying this technique to humans might lead to malformations or diseases in the human clone. There are differences in early development between species that might influence success rate. In sheep and humans, the "embryo divides to between the 8- and 16- cell stage before nuclear genes take control of development, but in mice this transition occurs at the 2 cell stage". In 1998, a Korean group claimed that they had cloned a human embryo by nuclear transfer but their experiment was terminated at the 4-cell stage and so they had no evidence of successful reprogramming (Friedrich, 2000).
The ethical issues are so important because cells are also hard to control, and hard to grow in a reliable way. "They have "minds" of their own, and are often unstable, producing unexpected results as they divide, or even cancerous growths" (Lopez, 2001).
Still there are a lot of pros and cons concerning cloning. Scientists say that a "human clone" is a time-delayed identical twin of another person. A clone is not an exact replica of the original, but just a much younger identical twin. As with identical twins, the clone and the orignal person will have different fingerprints. Human cloning research would enable doctors to determine the cause of spontaneous abortions, give oncologists an understanding of the rapid cell growth of cancer, allow the use of stem cells to regenerate nerve tissues, and advance work on aging, genetics, and medicines.
Supposed it is unethical to harm or destroy some human beings in order to benefit others. International documents such as the Nuremburg Code, the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights reject the use of human beings in experimental research without their informed consent and permit research on incompetent subjects only if there is minimal risk, and therapeutic benefit for "the human subject" (Wertz, 2003).
Scientists are concerned about the medical risks and uncertainty associated with human cloning. One fear is that if a baby is cloned, its chromosomes could match the age of the donor -- meaning that a "5-year old would look like a 10-year old and a 10-year would look like a 20-year old, with potential for heart disease and cancer to develop" (Wertz, 2002). As it was stated in testimony against cloning "Human cloning should be banned because it shows grave disrespect for human beings in the very act of creating them. It reduces human procreation to an assembly line, where fellow humans are manufactured to preset specifications and exploited for the sake of traits deemed useful by others" (Doerflinger, 2005).
The legislation of the USA accepted laws aimed to control cloning. Nine states have laws pertaining to human cloning. Therapeutic cloning is more controversial type, which arises disputes and discussions. Conservatives see the perspectives of these types in the possibility: "to create a new life without a father". Their opponents, liberals, suppose that: "Therapeutic cloning will allow them to create organs that are a perfect match for those in need of a transplant" (Human Reproduction and therapeutic cloning, 2005).
So, two opposing sides hinder human embryonic stem cell research. One side's key argument is that such research is able to answer many questions doctors currently have about diseases. Due to the damage embryos endure as a result of the process, the opponents suggest that it is immoral and does not care how much the research could benefit society. Both opinion has the right to exist but scientists, government authorities and the public should find the golden middle between their ethical prejudices and possibility to live longer and be free from incurable and chronic diseases. Undoubtedly, the state and medical regulations must exist in order to prevent negative outcomes, but in this very field nobody is able to draw the line between negative and positive, because in many cases fears based on hypothetical theories. And, sometimes the most negative and unpredictable results can lead to epoch-making discovery.
It is possible to say that cloning, as a science, has a great future, but law and legislation should control this "dangerous" sphere of knowledge. Many ethical and moral concerns have arisen over the potential applications of the cloning technology. The technology is still not perfect. Most scientists agree that human cloning poses a serious risk of producing children who are stillborn, unhealthy, severely malformed or disabled. It is also impossible to predict all potential applications of a new technology. Most will be beneficial but all technology can be misused in one way or another. The solution is not to regulate the technology itself but how it is applied.