What Is Human Cloning?
Cloning is a process used to obtain an identical organism asexually. The clone it produces does not only look and think like its donor, but its DNA is also identical. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.
It is the substance which contains the genetic information for most organisms. In other words, it contains the information that tells the body how to work and develop. For example, if you have blue eyes, it is a result of your DNA – it is also what makes it possible for any individual to trace back to his ancestral roots with a DNA testing kit. Read our guide on the Best DNA test.
How it works, is it possible?
The technique that makes cloning possible is nuclear transfer. It was first explored in the 1920s by Hans Spemann for the purpose of conducting genetics research, the study of heredity and genes in living organisms. It is still used in every true cloning laboratory around the world, and every cloning experiment involving adult mammals has employed it.
Another similar technique, dubbed “twinning”, is used as well, but it should not be confused with cloning and nuclear transfer, because it is simply the act of splitting the cells of a young embryo. It is basically the same idea as having twins.
The nuclear transfer requires two cells, a donor cell and an oocyte, or egg cell. Contrary to previous belief, research has proven that the egg cell works optimally if it is unfertilized. First, the egg cell must be enucleated. This means that the nucleus is removed from the cell. Since the majority of its genetic information is stored in the nucleus, this eliminates the cell’s heritage. The donor cell is then forced into a stage called the Gap Zero (sometimes referred to as G0 stage; another stage of cell dormancy is Gap One, or G1, etc.), a dormant phase. This is done in different ways, depending on the technique. This Gap Zero stage causes the cell to shut down, but it does not die.
Now, the nucleus of the donor cell is ready to be accepted by the egg cell, which at this point does not have one. The donor cell’s nucleus is then removed from the donor cell and placed inside the egg cell. This feat is accomplished either through cell fusion or transplantation. The egg cell is then prompted to begin forming an embryo, either by an electric pulse or by the effects of a chemical culture. Once this happens, the embryo can be transplanted into a surrogate mother, an animal used to carry and give birth to embryos which are not its own. If all goes well and with a little luck, the surrogate mother will give birth to a perfect replica of the donor animal.
A short history of cloning
The first clone was generated in 1958 by F. C Steward, who was at that time the director of the Laboratory for Cell Physiology, Growth, and Development at Cornell University. He was able to clone carrots from cells in the roots. He put the cells in a nutrient solution, and they began to grow into new roots.
Today, his methods seem primitive, but they were effective enough to make him famous in the world of engineered reproduction. Since the 1950s, his techniques have expanded, and now just about every plant can be cloned with relative ease.
Facts – The First Cloned Human Embryo
Advanced Cell Technologies (ACT) has reported the successful cloning of a human embryo by removing DNA from the skin of a man’s leg and inserting it into a cow’s egg, which previously had its nucleus removed.
The announced cloning took place on November 1998, although ACT may have performed the same experiment years before. Researchers allowed the cloned embryo to develop for 12 days before halting the experiment. Several more clonings have reportedly been done with the goal of harvesting stem cells from embryos. Stem cells are found inside embryos during the first two weeks of their development and have the potential to develop into any kind of cell in the human body. After two weeks stem cells differentiate into more specialized tissues.
Tissues created from stem cells could be used to treat nerve damage, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes. Stem cells could also be used to create organs for transplantation. In addition, many other medical benefits are expected.
ACT’s clone may be the first cloned human embryo. There were reports of similar work in South Korea, but it remains unclear as to whether those scientists were successful.
Human cloning pros and cons
The Benefits of Human Cloning & Possibilities
There are many ways in which human cloning is expected to benefit mankind. Below is a list that is far from complete.
Reverse the ageing process
Dr. Richard Seed, one of the leading proponents of human cloning technology, suggests that it may someday be possible to reverse the ageing process because of what we learn from cloning.
Reverse Heart Attacks
Human cloning technology could be used to reverse heart attacks. Scientists believe that they may be able to treat heart attack victims by cloning their healthy heart cells and injecting them into the areas of the heart that have been damaged. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and several other industrialized countries.
Cure incurable other diseases
There has been a breakthrough with human stem cells. Embryonic stem cells can be grown to produce organs or tissues to repair or replace damaged ones. Skin for burn victims, brain cells for the brain-damaged, spinal cord cells for quadriplegics and paraplegics, hearts, lungs, livers, and kidneys could be produced. By combining this technology with human cloning technology it may be possible to produce needed tissue for suffering people that will be free of rejection by their immune systems. Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart failure, degenerative joint disease, and other problems may be made curable if human cloning and its technology are not banned.
Infertility. With cloning, infertile couples could have children. Despite getting a fair amount of publicity in the news current treatments for infertility, in terms of percentages, are not very successful. One estimate is that current infertility treatments are less than 10 per cent successful. Couples go through physically and emotionally painful procedures for a small chance of having children. Many couples run out of time and money without successfully having children. Human cloning could make it possible for many more infertile couples to have children than ever before possible.
Plastic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgery. Because of human cloning and its technology the days of silicone breast implants and other cosmetic procedures that may cause immune disease should soon be over. With the new technology, instead of using materials foreign to the body for such procedures, doctors will be able to manufacture bone, fat, connective tissue, or cartilage that matches the patient’s tissues exactly. Anyone will able to have their appearance altered to their satisfaction without the leaking of silicone gel into their bodies or the other problems that occur with present-day plastic surgery. Victims of terrible accidents that deform the face should now be able to have their features repaired with new, safer, technology. Limbs for amputees may be able to be regenerated.
Most people are aware of the breast implant fiasco in which hundreds of thousands of women received silicone breast implants for cosmetic reasons. Many came to believe that the implants were making them ill with diseases of their immune systems. With human cloning and its technology breast augmentation and other forms of cosmetic surgery could be done with implants that would not be any different from the person’s normal tissues.
The average person carries 8 defective genes inside them. These defective genes allow people to become sick when they would otherwise remain healthy. With human cloning and its technology, it may be possible to ensure that we no longer suffer because of our defective genes.
Those women at high risk for Down’s syndrome can avoid that risk by cloning.
Tay-Sachs disease. This is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder could be prevented by using cloning to ensure that a child does not express the gene for the disorder
We may be able to clone livers for liver transplants
We may be able to clone kidneys for kidney transplants
We should be able to clone the bone marrow for children and adults suffering from leukaemia. This is expected to be one of the first benefits to come from cloning technology.
We may learn how to switch cells on and off through cloning and thus be able to cure cancer. Scientists still do not know exactly how cells differentiate into specific kinds of tissue, nor to they understand why cancerous cells lose their differentiation. Cloning, at long last, may be the key to understanding differentiation and cancer.
We may be able to produce effective genetic therapy against cystic fibrosis. Ian Wilmut and colleagues are already working on this problem.
Spinal cord injury
We may learn to grow nerves or the spinal cord back again when they are injured. Quadriplegics might be able to get out of their wheelchairs and walk again. Christopher Reeves, the man who played Superman, might be able to walk again.
Testing for genetic disease
Cloning technology can be used to test for and perhaps cure genetic diseases.
The above list only scratches the surface of what human cloning technology can do for mankind. The suffering that can be relieved is staggering. This new technology heralds a new era of unparalleled advancement in medicine if people will release their fears and let the benefits begin.
Why should another child die from leukaemia when if the technology is allowed we should be able to cure it in a few years time?
The Top Ten Myths about Human Cloning
1. **Cloning Xeroxes a person.**
Cloning merely re-creates the genes of the ancestor, not what he has learned or experienced. Technically, it re-creates the genotype, not the phenotype. (Even at that, only 99% of those genes get re-created because 1% of such a child’s genes would come from those in the egg – mitochondrial DNA). Conventional wisdom holds that about half of who we are comes from our genes, the other half, from the environment.
Cloning cannot re-create what in us came from the environment; it also cannot re-create memories. The false belief that cloning recreates a person stems in part from the common, current false belief in simplistic, genetic reductionism, i. e., that a person really is just determined by his genes. No reputable geneticist or psychologist believes this.
2. **Human cloning is replication or making children into commodities.**
Opponents of cloning often use these words to beg the question, to assume that children created by parents by a new method would not be loved. Similar things were said about “test tube” babies, who turned out to be some of the most-wanted, most-loved babies ever created in human history.
Indeed, the opposite is true: evolution has created us with sex drives such that, if we do not carefully use contraception, children occur. Because children get created this way without being wanted, sexual reproduction is more likely to create unwanted, and hence possibly unloved, children than human cloning.
Lawyers opposing cloning have a special reason for using these pejorative words. If cloning is just a new form of human reproduction, then it is Constitutionally protected from interference by the state. Several Supreme Court decisions declare that all forms of human reproduction, including the right not to reproduce, cannot be abridged by government.
Use of words such as “replication” and “commodification” also assumes artificial wombs or commercial motives; about these fallacies, see below.
3. **Human cloning reduces biological diversity.**
Population genetics says otherwise. Six billion people now exist, soon to be eight billion, and most of them reproduce. Cloning requires in vitro fertilization, which is expensive and inefficient, with only a 20% success rate. Since 1978, at most a half million babies have been produced this way, or at most, one out of 12,000 babies.
Over decades and with such great numbers, populations follow the Law of Regression to the Mean. This means that, even if someone tried to create a superior race by cloning, it would fail, because cloned people would have children with non-cloned people, and resulting genetic hybrids would soon be normalized.
Cloning is simply a tool. It could be used with the motive of creating uniformity (but would fail, because of above), or it be used for the opposite reason, to try to increase diversity (which would also fail, for the same reason).
4. **People created by cloning would be less ensouled than normal humans, or would be sub-human.**
A human who had the same number of chromosomes as a child created sexually, who was gestated by a woman, and who talked, felt, and spoke as any other human, would ethically be human and a person. It is by now a principle of ethics that the origins of a person, be it from mixed-race parents, unmarried parents, in vitro fertilization, or a gay male couple hiring a surrogate mother, do not affect the personhood of the child born. The same would be true of a child created by cloning (who, of course, has to be gestated for nine months by a woman).
Every deviation from normal reproduction has always been faced with this fear. Children greeted by sperm donation, in vitro fertilization, and surrogate motherhood were predicted to be less-than-human, but were not.
A variation predicts that while, in fact, they will not be less-than-human, people will treat them this way and hence, such children will harmed. This objection reifies prejudice and makes it an ethical justification, which it is wrong to do. The correct response to prejudice is to expose it for what it is, combat it with reason and with evidence, not validate it as an ethical reason.
5. **People created by cloning could be used for spare organs for normal humans.**
Nothing could be done to a person created by cloning that right now could not be done to your brother or to a person’s twin. The U. S. Constitution strongly implies that once a human fetus is outside the womb and alive, he has rights. Decisions backing this up give him rights to inherit property, rights not to suffer discrimination because of disability, and rights to U. S. citizenship.
A variation of this myth assumes that a dictator could make cloned humans into special SWAT teams or suicidal bombers. But nothing about originating people this way gives anyone any special power over the resulting humans, who would have free will. Besides, if a dictator wants to create such assassins, he need not wait for cloning but can take orphans and try to indoctrinate them now in isolated camps.
6. **All people created from the same genotype would be raised in batches and share secret empathy or communication.**
Pure science fiction. If I wanted to recreate the genotype of my funny Uncle Harry, why would my wife want to gestate 5 or 6 other babies at the same time? Indeed, we now know that the womb cannot support more than 2-3 fetuses without creating a likely disability in one. Guidelines now call for no more than two embryos to be introduced by in vitro fertilization, which of course is required to use cloning.
Such assumptions about cloned humans being created in batches are linked to nightmarish science fiction scenarios where humane society has been destroyed and where industrialized machines have taken over human reproduction. But this is just someone’s nightmare, not facts upon which to base state and federal laws.
7. **Scientists who work on human cloning are evil or motivated by bad motives.**
The stuff of Hollywood and scary writers. Scientists are just people. Most of them have kids of their own and care a lot for kids. No one wants to bring a handicapped child into the world. Movies and novels never portray life scientists with sympathy. This anti-science prejudice started with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and continues with nefarious scientists working for the Government on The X Files.
People who call themselves scientists and grandstand for television, such as Richard Seed and Brigette Boisselier of the Raelians, are not real scientists but people who use the aura of science to gain attention. Real scientists don’t spend all their time flying around the world to be on TV but stay at home in their clinics doing their work.
8. **Babies created by cloning could be grown in artificial wombs.**
Nope, sorry. Medicine has been trying for fifty years to create an artificial womb, but has never come close to succeeding. Indeed, controversial experiments in 1973 on live-born fetuses in studying artificial wombs effectively shut down such research.
Finally, if anything like such wombs existed, we could save premature babies who haven’t developed lung function, but unfortunately, we still can’t – premature babies who can’t breathe at all die. Thus, any human baby still needs a human woman to gestate him for at least six months, and to be healthy, nine months. This puts the lie to many science fiction stories and to many predictions about cloning and industrial reproduction.
9. **Only selfish people want to create a child by cloning.**
First, this assumes that ordinary people don’t create children for selfish reasons, such as a desire to have someone take care of them in old age, a desire to see part of themselves continue after death, and/or the desire to leave their estate to someone. Many people are hypocritical or deceived about why they came to have children. Very few people just decide that they want to bring more joy into the world, and hence create a child to raise and support for life as an end-in-himself. Let’s be honest here. Second, a couple using cloning need not create a copy of one of them. As said above, Uncle Harry could be a prime candidate.
On the other hand, if a couple chooses a famous person, critics accuse them of creating designer babies. Either way, they can’t win: if they re-create one of their genotypes, they are narcissistic; if they choose someone else’s genes, they’re guilty of creating designer babies.
In general, why should a couple using cloning have a higher justification required of them than a couple using sexual reproduction? If we ask: what counts as a good reason for creating a child, then why should cloning have any special test that is not required for sexual reproduction? Indeed, and more generally, what right does government have to require, or judge, any couple’s reasons for having a child, even if they are seen by others to be selfish?
Couples desiring to use cloning should not bear an undue burden of justification.
10. **Human cloning is inherently evil: it can only be used for bad purposes by bad people.**
No, it’s just a tool, just another way to create a family. A long legacy in science fiction novels and movies make the word “cloning” so fraught with bad connotations that it can hardly be used in any discussion that purports to be impartial. It is like discussing equal rights for women by starting to discuss whether “the chicks” would fare better with equal rights. To most people, “cloning” implies selfish parents, crazy scientists, and out-of- control technology, so a fair discussion using this word isn’t possible. Perhaps the phrase, “somatic cell nuclear transplantation” is better, even if it’s a scientific mouthful. So if we shouldn’t call a person created by cloning, a “clone,” what should we call him? Answer: a person.
Cloning of animals
There are two main techniques for the cloning of animals: the Roslin technique and the Honolulu technique. The Roslin technique was developed by Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. Wilmut can be considered a cloning pioneer in a sense because he created the cloned sheep Dolly and the transgenic clone Polly.
Best Scientific, Medical and Legal Articles on Human Cloning
Below are some of the best scientific, medical, and legal articles we have discovered. They are all available on the Internet.
- A science teacher who used to work at the Roslin Institute (1990 to 1994), knows the “characters” (Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell, Bill Ritchie, etc) first hand, and now teaches Genetics and Cell Biology at Napier University (Edinburgh), explains the basics of human cloning at his website and provides some very nice graphics to show how cloning works http://www.synapses.co.uk/science/clone.html.
- See John Robertson‘s essay “Human Cloning and the Challenge of Regulation,” vol. 339 New Eng. J. Med. 119-122 (July 9,1998).
- Dr. Steven Vere in support of human cloning
- TheNew England Journal of Medicine has published an editorial on the Internet at http://www.nejm.org/content/1998/0338/0013/0905.asp in support of human cloning technology.
- Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cells: a New Era in Human Biology and Medicine by Davor Solter, Department of Developmental Biology, Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology, Freiburg, Germany.
- Scientists in the journal Nature confirm that dolly is indeed a true clone. See the first paragraph of the article at http://www.nature.com/, although you need to be a subscriber to Nature to see the full text article.
- Go to the National Library of Medicine through Medline and do your own search on human cloning by clicking here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/.
- Attorney John Robertson’s essay “Liberty, Identity, and Human Cloning,” Texas Law Review 76: 1371 (1998), is reprinted with permission at this website.
- New Scientistist Magazine has extensive coverage of cloning at http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/clone/clone.html.
- **The Scientist explains how mice were cloned at http://www.the-scientist.library.upenn.edu/yr1998/august/lewis_p1_980817.html, and has many other articles on cloning available through its home page [link not working]
- BioFACT Report covers cloning and links to other sources such as the New York Times, LA Times, and medical journals at its home page, which is located at http://biofact.com/.
- The BBC Sci/Tech News has coverage of human cloning at its home page located at http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/default.htm.
- Science Daily has links and stories about human cloning and its home page is located at http://www.sciencedaily.com/.
- You can search on human cloning at Fox Sci/Tech News at http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/.
- You can search CNN Sci-Tech news at http://www.cnn.com/TECH/.