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Cloning: Right or Wrong?

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Running Head: CLONING RIGHT OR WRONG?

Cloning Right or Wrong? Should the cloning of humans be legalized?

Diane Lentz

English 215

Strayer University Online

Cloning Right or Wrong? Should the Cloning of Humans be Legalized?

Scientists have been cloning animals from embryonic cells for decades (Cowen, 2001). With the introduction of Dolly, the first animal cloned from mature tissue, the issue of cloning has reached a fevered pitch. Individuals for cloning and those against are taking their battle to new arenas, such as congress. The battle will continue as research progresses. The process of cloning and the information compiled from cloned animal experiments are as important as the benefits and complications as well as the ethical and legal ramifications of it, which are at the core of the modern day debate.

In 1997, a sheep named Dolly gained national recognition. Dr. Ian Wilmut, a Scottish scientist from the Roslin Institute, introduced her to the world as a genetic copy of her mother. Animals, as humans, receive half of their DNA from their mother and half from their father. This creates a unique individual. It took scientists 277 tries to succeed in creating Dolly. While Dolly has the same DNA as her mother, they are different in many ways. Human twins share the same DNA but have different personalities due to life experiences. The process Dr. Wilmut used to create Dolly is called “nuclear transfer.” Scientists took udder cells from her mother and let the cells multiply until they divided many times. At this point they took an egg from a second ewe and removed the nucleus. One udder cell was placed next to the egg cell and they were joined using electricity. This egg cell now contained the DNA of the udder cell. This cell divided and developed into an embryo. The embryo was placed inside a third ewe and five months later this ewe gave birth to Dolly (Time for Kids, 2001). The key to success at the Roslin Institute seems to have been that Wilmut starved the mammary cells for five days before extracting their nuclei. This maneuver “froze” the cells in a quiescent phase of their division cycle and may have made their chromosomes more susceptible to being reprogrammed to initiate the growth of a new organism after the nuclei were transferred into the egg (Beardsley, 1997).

Experts were skeptical when Ian Wilmut trotted Dolly on stage at the Roslin Institute in 1997. Did she really spring from genetic material taken from an adult’s mature tissue? Or did cells from an embryo sneak in to fool Dr. Wilmut? Alternatively, if Dolly was genuine, was she merely a one-time freak? Or could adult cloning be repeated, especially in other species? Three reports in the July 23, 2001 issue of the journal Nature laid those doubts to rest. Detailed analysis done by Wilmut and several colleagues, and a similar analysis done separately by Esther Signer of the University of Leicester, England, and her colleagues, proved Dolly was descended directly from a mature cell from the donor sheep (Cowen. 1998). There was another cloning project involving pigs, which presented a wealth of information. Big Bertha and Tiny Tina, a couple of piglets, were cloned at Texas A & M University. Big Bertha is approximately 40 percent larger and more aggressive than Tiny Tina. The exact same genes were used but they are totally different animals. These births lead the academic pack in the number of species cloned at one time. The school’s “Missyplicity” project had come under fire. This project has owners of a dog spending $3.7 million to have the pet cloned. But why clone an animal purely for the same DNA when cloned animals have different traits, as discussed earlier (Axtman, 2001)? A cloned Brahma bull, Second Chance, born in Texas in June 1998 was carefully watched. His donor, Chance, was the oldest animal used for cell extraction in cloning at an age of 21, when the process was done. His owners are convinced he is the same as his donor citing identical personalities and even a preference for the same spot in the front yard. While Dolly made headlines, there are fare more cases of disaster. Most cloned animals rarely make it to birth and those that do suffer from severe problems ranging from physical deformities to life threatening medical conditions (US News and World Report, 2001). Noah was the clone of an endangered ox like guar that died after two days from dysentery. There is also the case of a lamb that had to be euthanized by scientists because it couldn’t stop hyperventilating because of blood vessel abnormalities. Cloning adult animals endangers both the mother and the offspring. A cell taken from adult tissue may possess all the genes to make a completely new animal but most of the genes have been “turned off”. Skin cells deactivate themselves of all genes except those that tell it how to be a skin cell. When genetic material from a skin cell is put into an unfertilized egg, the egg has to very quickly reprogram that material so that all the genes required for a new animal get turned back on. There is not a sure test that the process of cloning animals will work with humans. The list of known medical conditions associated with cloning is extensive and new issues are being added as more animals are cloned. While many are against cloning, Raelian, a religious sect, maintains that cloning is vital to the future of our planet. The Raelians, lead by Claude Vorilhon, insist scientists from another planet created life on earth as it is today and believe cloning is the answer to continuing our existence. They believe that someday a human scientist, or group of scientists, will engineer their own life forms and continue and endless circle of scientific creation (US News and World Report, 2001). Brigitte Boisselier, a chemist, heads Clonaid, a company billing itself as the world’s first human cloning company and founded by the Raelians. As their cloning research continues, she insists there has been no wrongdoing. When Clonaid’s lab was raided, many felt it was a result of comments made by Boisselier indicating they were only weeks away from being ready to clone a human. In early 2004, FDA agents uncovered a secret lab that had ties to human cloning and ordered all experiments stopped. A fertility clinic owner and a controversial Italian fertility doctor were planning the cloning of a human before the end of 2006 and many scientists didn’t doubt that they would succeed. Scientists have explored cloning for a variety of reasons. Some cows have the ability to produce more milk than others. If these cows can be cloned, farmers can produce milk more quickly and at a cost savings. Mice are used to study diseases. The cloning of mice would allow scientists to research the progression of diseases, such as cancer. For the development of medicine, scientists use animals that are as identical to humans as possible. The use of cloned monkeys could aid in the development of this medicine. Disease resistant cattle can be cloned and lives in third world countries saved. The technology of cloning can be used to put an end to the extinction of endangered species. What would the world be like today if dinosaurs still roamed the prairies? If scientists can clone human organs, hearts, lungs and kidneys, would the organ donor program become obsolete? The possibility of organ rejection following a transplant might become a non-issue if DNA were an identical match. Those in favor of cloning insist they are trying to improve life for people on earth (Axtman, 2001). Should and infertile, childless couple have the option of cloning for reproduction? Cloning would, in principle, allow women to reproduce without any help from men. Should grieving parents be denied the opportunity to produce an identical copy of their dying baby (Beardsley, 1997)? While there appear to be many potential positive medical, health and quality of life reasons to allow cloning for the benefit of mankind, such possibilities must be weighed against the possible disastrous results. Many scientists shudder when they contemplate the possibilities and issues they will face if the deformities they are seeing in cloned animals are the same with a human baby. Noted researchers have found that normal cloned animals develop abnormalities later in life. There is currently a lot of trial and error in the field of cloning. Are we prepared for that error in humans? There are also ethical and legal issues surrounding the cloning of humans. Many people believe that the cloning of a human is immoral and that science has no business playing God. There are legal concerns surrounding the cloning of humans. The FDA currently oversees all experimental medical procedures involving humans in the US, which would include cloning, and has cracked down on this unapproved and controversial practice. While cloning of humans is not yet approved in the states, European countries allow it. The issues surrounding cloning will likely be debated for decades to come. There are pros and cons involving what scientists and religious sects perceive we could gain with the legalization of cloning. It’s the unseen and unknown that those against cloning fear.

References

All About Cloning: The Good, The Baaaa’d, and the Woolly (2001, October 5). Time for Kids Volume 7 Issue 4 p12, 2p, 1c.

Axtman, K. (2001). Quietly, Animal Cloning Speeds Onward
Christian Science Monitor; 10/15/2001, Vol. 93 Issue 224, p3. Retrieved November 21, 2009 from http://web.ebscohost.com

Beardsley, Tim. A Clone in Sheep’s Clothing (1997, March). Scientific American

Boyce, N., Kaplan, D. E. & Pasternak, D. (2001). The God Game No More
U.S. News & World Report; 7/9/2001-7/16/2001, Vol. 131 Issue 2, p20. Retrieved November 21, 2009 from http://web.ebscohost.com Cowen, R.C. (1998). Sheep To Mice To Cattle: Cloning Leaps Forward
Christian Science Monitor; 7/23/1998, Vol. 90 Issue 167, p1. Retrieved November 21, 2009 from http://web.ebscohost.com

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