Table of Contents
Definition of Cloning
History of Cloning
The Embryo Cloning Process
Pros of Cloning
Cons of Cloning
Government involvement in Cloning
The controversial topic that will be examined in this paper is cloning and how it has become a major issue within modern society. In 1997, the cloning of the sheep Dolly marked a major breakthrough in science. This event took place at The Roslin Institute in Scotland and it shocked the entire world. Because of the simplicity of the process used many people realized that the cloning of a human being was no longer the stuff of a science fiction novel, but in fact a clear possibility.
Since then, the idea of cloning a human has become the subject of great debate. This is a very sensitive topic, and there are many people that are both for and against it. There are also many misconceptions related to cloning, how it works and what its ramifications are. The purpose of this paper is to explore this topic in detail and to provide conclusions regarding both the positive and the negative influence of this phenomenon.
2. Definition of Cloning
There are two ways of cloning: Embryo cloning works by removing one or more cells from an embryo and making these cells develop into a separate embryo with the same DNA as the original. Cloning also happens naturally when the fertilized ovum splits and produces an identical twin.
2. The History of Cloning (Using Adult DNA)
It has been reported that the cloning of embryos has been taking place since the 1980 s. At this stage the cloning that took place involved splitting a single fertilized ovum into two or more clones. Both of these were then implanted into the womb of the female and eventually she gave birth to identical off spring.
During this time the option of cloning an adult DNA was considered impossible.
Dr. Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Scotland achieved the first cloning of an adult DNA in July 1996. He had successfully cloned Dolly, a sheep. Since this time, the institute has successfully cloned seven other sheep using the same process.
In 1998, Dr. Yanigimachi of the University of Hawaii announced that he had successfully cloned mice. His team had managed to produce 22 cloned mice. An interesting development was that he had been able to clone seven of the mice from other clones that had all come from the cells of one mouse.
In December of 1998, researchers announced that they had been able to clone a human being. The two scientists responsible were Kim Seung-bo and Lee Bo-yeon. They took an ovum from a woman and removed its DNA. They then inserted a somatic cell from the same woman. Their report states that we were unable to confirm division up to the fourth cell stage, the stage of embryo development when a test tube embryo is placed back into the uterus, where it can then further develop into a fetus (Chosun-Ilbo newspaper).
Further research revealed that the purpose of this experiment was not to clone humans, but to clone specific, genetically identical organs for human transplant. This procedure was not followed through and their work stopped after pressure from ethical groups and the Korean government.
By end of 2000, eight species of mammals had been cloned. These include mice, sheep, cows, goats, rats, and pigs. According to Religious Tolerance.org, up to 5000 animals have been cloned by the end of 2000 (James).
3. The Embryo Cloning Process
Step One: This involves taking a cell from the female.
Step Two: Next, and unfertilized egg is removed from a second female.
Step Four: The egg is implanted into the surrogate female.
Step Five: The resulting offspring is genetically identical to the original donor.
This form of cloning has actually been around for quite some time. The first embryo human cloning was achieved by Dr. Robert Stillman at the George Washington Medical Center in 1994 (Kolata). They took seventeen flawed human embryos that were about to die anyway. They came from an ovum that had been fertilized by two sperm. This meant that there was an extra set of chromosomes and meant that the ovum would never develop into a fetus. These ovum were successfully split, creating a clone.
4. Human Cloning
As mentioned above, the cloning of animals such as pigs and sheep has already taken place. According to the research done for this paper, a human has not been cloned yet. Human cloning would require a somatic cell as opposed to a reproductive cell such as an egg or a sperm from a person and removing its nucleus. The DNA of the somatic cell is transferred to an enucleated egg cell.
If a human was to be cloned, the first thing that would have to happen is that a cell is removed from a woman who is used in the process. An unfertilized egg is then taken from a second woman. The DNA from the cell is removed and transferred to the egg. The egg is then implanted into the surrogate mother. The baby that is later born is genetically identical to the cell that came from the donor woman. In other words: a clone.
With the exception of the sperm and egg, every cell in the body contains all of the genetic material in its DNA to theoretically create an exact clone of the original body. This means substance from any creature could theoretically be used to clone the creature, including humans.
A big reason why human cloning has not taken place yet is because the somatic cells are specialized and there are many genes that are lost during the process, making a successful human clone impossible. Nonetheless, all the research conducted for this paper revealed that scientists around the world believe that human cloning is very possible and that it will be done quite soon.
5. Pros of Cloning
There are many significant benefits that can potentially result from human cloning.
An excellent example would be parents who are at risk of passing a genetic defect to a child. In this case, a fertilized ovum could be cloned, and the duplicate tested for the disease or the disorder. If the clone is free of any defects then the other clone would also be free of defects. The result would be that genetic defects would be greatly reduced.
Cloning could be an effective solution towards treating infertility. An ovum from the woman could be coupled with a cell from a man s body (if he was sterile). Both partners would therefore contribute to the child, and this might be preferable to taking sperm from another man.
Treatment for damage to the brain or nervous system might also be possible due to cloning. Damaged nerve tissue in adults does not regenerate on their own. However, stem cells might be capable of repairing the tissue. Large numbers of stem cells are required for this, and human embryo cloning could for this. Embryo stem cell research has recently been approved in Great Britain, which experts say could revolutionize medicine, offering the possibility of transplants that would prevent or cure scores of illnesses (MSNBC.com).
The positive uses of human cloning are related to the great improvements that this development would bring to health and medicine.
6. Cons of Cloning
Cloning should be banned because it fosters the treatment of people as means, not ends, provides no clear benefits in exchange for risks, fosters the further ambiguity of kinship structures, and compromises the dignity and uniqueness of individuals (James).
Dr Wilmut, the scientist who created Dolly, describes the cloning of humans as appalling because it would result in a high number of miscarriages and deaths among newborns.
There are many arguments in support of a ban on human cloning and there are many cases where the case for human cloning seems difficult to justify. The case of the death of a child is a good example of this. When a young child dies it is an extremely tragic experience for the family of the child. Human cloning could conceivably make it possible to clone the dead child from its DNA cells. The issue with is that it would put unfair expectations on the cloned child to act in a certain way, and this could result in a number of profound psychological issues.
7. Government Involvement in Cloning
The more conservative administrations under Ronald Reagan and George Bush enforced laws that banned all human embryo research in the 1980 s and early 1990 s. When Bill Clinton took over at the White House, one of the first things that his administration did was lift the ban on public funding for research on human embryo and fetal tissue.
Misconceptions about Cloning
The cloning of famous historical figures such as King Rameses III of Egypt or Napoleon Bonaparte are examples of some of the crazy ideas that people have come up with since the idea of human cloning has moved closer to reality. Such ideas, for now, are completely impossible because the cells of dead people are dead, and science has not figured out a way to regenerate them. There are many other misconceptions related to cloning:
Cloning is unnatural
An identical twin is the same as a clone
This is not true, unless the clone is born at the same time from the same womb as the unborn as its clone.
Human cloning could result in bringing the dead back to life
This is unlikely, because it would require cells from a body that were frozen soon after death. This would mean that the dead person would be cloned, but they way that the cloned behaved would different because of the environment that it would grow up in. Further, there is no way that the clone would have the same memory, thoughts, or feelings as the original.
Humans without conscious brains could be cloned so that their body parts could be used with a moral issue.
This would be entirely impossible. Attempting to surgically remove someone s conscious seems both unlikely and morally very problematic. It has been proven that a person can look and act like they are totally incapacitated, when in fact their mind s are still very active.
Personal Observations on Cloning
When I first heard about the cloned sheep Dolly, I remember being overwhelmed by a sense of disbelief and concern. It seemed hard to believe that such a thing was possible. It felt hard to believe because the idea of cloning seemed so unnatural and weird. I was concerned because I thought that cloned animals would now start popping up all over the place, and this idea was a little disturbing.
Having researched this paper, I feel a little bit less concerned and a lot more educated on the subject. It seems that cloning does indeed have a role to play in society and that there are many positive factors. I think that if cloning can be used to improve health and provide people with more options, then it is definitely a good thing. In this regard, I think that the cloning of animals for constructive purposes is totally justified.
The ides of human cloning, on the other hand, does not make me feel very comfortable.
I actually think that a human clone has probably already taken place. The reason why I believe this is because technology has developed really quickly over the past few years making the likelihood of human cloning very possible. The motivation for someone to create a human clone would almost certainly be financial. In the same way that corporations were in a race to map the human genome, the race to clone a human has also been going on.
These factors are very concerning for me and they raise many ethical questions. I think that cloning an animal is justified, but a cloning a human should be banned. The reason why I think that human cloning should be banned is because it is almost as if we are playing the role of God and this is not right. The complications listed above are a further concern of mine. I think that it would be terrible if many young babies had to die or be born deformed until the process was perfected. This would be like murder, which is clearly wrong.
Having said this, I suppose that human cloning is inevitable and will (if it has not already happened) happen. Technology and the way that society is conducted will ensure this. Capitalism means that we live in a money driven society, and if there is money to be made from human cloning (there is), then it will almost certainly happen.
It is clearly wrong, though. Cloning humans for the purposes of replacing a dead child or person place unfair expectations on that person, and should therefore be banned. It is important to remember that human beings can control the technologies that they invent. To do so they have to use their heads, not their genes (Caplan). Regulations need to be put in place though, which protect the rights of all individuals (including clones). People should have the right to protect their own DNA and determine whether not their DNA is used for cloning purposes.
On the other hand, there the good aspects like cartilage cloning to the cloning of new bone marrow, make it seem somehow justified if it is very controlled. Cloning presents both a dangerous and an opportunistic future. I just hope that the law-makers figure it all out before technology runs away and creates a monster. I suppose, with Dolly though, it already has.
Britain okays human embryo cloning. MSNBC.com. (January 22, 2001)
Accessed April 21, 2001. http://www.msnbc.com/news/520058.asp?cp1=1
Cole-Turner, Ronald. Human Cloning: Religious Responses Knox: Louisville (1997)
Cloning Proponent clearly unhinged, scientist says, Reuters News Agency, December 1998
Ethical Aspects of Human Cloning. Ontario: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
(Web site last updated March 20, 2001) Accessed April 21, 2001. http://www.religioustolerance.org/cloning.htm
Humans may be cloned Sooner than anyone thinks. CNS News, January 7, 1998
Humber, James. Biomedical Ethics Reviews: Human Cloning Humana: New Jersey (1998)