Biology 103
2000 First Web Report
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CLONING: CONTROVERSIAL SCIENCE

SONAM TAMANG

Introduction: What is Cloning? Speaking of controversial issues, how about if we pick cloning as an example? Cloning is one of those issues that has, and probably will not have a final end to it. So, is it ethical or is it not ethical? Can we not overlook this aspect since there are many advantages to it? But then again, a line has to be drawn somewhere, does it not? Before going into the intricacies of cloning and how it is done, a concrete, dictionary definition of what a clone is, must be given in order to prevent any confusion that may occur later on. A clone is defined as "the aggregate of the asexually produced progeny of an individual" as well as "an individual grown from a single somatic cell of its parent and genetically identical to it."(1)To put it in simpler words, it is an asexually reproduced offspring who has the same genetic information as another organism or organisms. Organisms that clone themselves include bacteria, most unicellular organisms, plants (not from seed), algae (not all), fungi (not all) as well as many invertebrates.(2)

Missyplicity: A New Project

The "Missyplicity Project" can be used as an example for trying to find out more about cloning and its purposes. The "Missyplicity Project", involves Missy, the first dog to be cloned in history, following Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned >from an adult. The project started with the wish of Missy's owners to have her reproduced, which the scientists state, is different from creating a genetic duplicate. This "team of world-class scientists" deem their project as being "socially-beneficial" as well as "strongly ethics-driven." (3)Thus, the scientists aim not just to clone the dog but by doing that, they hope to attain several goals.

The Processes of Cloning

There are three different ways to clone mammals. They can be cloned either through the "twinning" method, the "Roslin Technique" or the "Honolulu Technique." The first method, "twinning," is the splitting of a cell from an embryo. The second method, the "Roslin Technique," also known as the "Nuclear Transfer" method, was used to create Dolly the sheep and the third technique, the "Honolulu Technique" has been developed most recently and is considered the most effective technique. The concept of twinning is as follows: once a sperm has fertilised an egg, it may divide into eight cell embryos which may then separate and in turn, these cells would then be able to be implanted into the uteri of eight separate mothers. Thus, eight clones will be borne to different mothers.(4) Nuclear transfer, one of the steps in creating Dolly, is the technique currently used in the cloning of adult animals. Although twinning exists, it can only used before an organism's cells differentiate. Since the focus of this paper is on a project similar to the Dolly project, there will be a more in depth explanation of how nuclear transfer is done. Nuclear transfer requires two cells, a donor cell and an oocyte, or egg cell. The egg cell can be taken out either from the donor of the host sheep. (5) The egg cell must be enucleated, or in other words, its nucleus must be taken out. (4) The two cells are then joined using an electric charge and implanted into the host sheep. The cell acts like a normal egg and grows a clone sheep, which is then born just like a normal baby. If no errors occur, a perfect replica of the donor animal will be born. (5) The Honolulu technique, the newest and most effective method was done on mice, the most difficult mammals to clone due to the fact that almost immediately after a mouse egg is fertilised, it begins dividing. Sheep, on the other hand, have eggs that wait several hours before dividing, possibly giving the egg time to reprogram its new nucleus. Despite the challenge, the success rate in this case was much higher than at the Roslin Institute wherein one in two hundred twenty seven clones were created as opposed to three out of every one-hundred attempts. For this technique, three different cells were used and there were no in vitro procedures since the cells used here were not cultured outside the animals.(4)

The Pros: Positive Aspects of Cloning

Dr. Mark Westhusin, a Nuclear Transfer Specialist and principal investigator of the Missyplicity Project believes that that through this project, there will be a definite improvement in basic understanding of canine reproductive biology, whether or not other goals are attained. Another goal they have set is to enhance reproduction of endangered species, especially endangered canines as they have also recruited the head of a major endangered species program to administer his particular goal. Among many other goals, the project aims to replicate exceptional dogs with "high societal value" such as seeing-eye dogs and search-and-rescue dogs in order to increase the chances of producing similar dogs with high intelligence, sensitivity and temperament.(3)

One of the main advantages of cloning that is brought to light is that of the organs that can be created for people in need of various transplants. For example, scientists see organs of pig clones as being suitable for humans as well as cloned organs easily being able to replace organs without being rejected by the body's immune system. Also, the medical community welcomes the idea that cloning can cure many illnesses. For example, livestock produced with preferred traits may have biological proteins that help people with diseases including diabetes, Parkinson's, and Cystic Fibrosis. Also, couples who are infertile or have genetic disorders could produce offspring using cloning. (2) Other sources even introduce the idea that not only will various diseases be cured through cloning but human and other animals may be disease resistant as well. (5)Also, many see the cloning of deceased one of the advantages of Cloning.(2)

The Cons: The Problems/Dangers and Controversies of Cloning:

So far, the success of the production of clones from adult cells have over-shadowed the fact that there were countless errors before the "perfect" clone could be produced. This leads to the problem of technical failures including mutations and retardation. Let us not forget that only one out of 227 trials could produce a Dolly. Thus, for one Dolly, tens, if not hundreds of lambs with abnormalities were produced.(2)

This brings us to the next step: human cloning. Are we ready for a world without genetic diversity? Many problems can occur, as everyone will share the same genetic material. Then maybe, our ability to clone will be lost and when we resort to natural reproduction, we may face another problem: inbreeding. This brings to mind more diseases, more abnormalities and finally, death. (2) Again, we can ask ourselves, where do we draw the line?

Many people also feel the moral and ethical aspects should not be ignored as to them, it is a horrific idea to "bring back" animals and people who have passed away. They feel that we are "playing god" by fighting nature. If we clone humans, a person's physique and intelligence may be modified. Also, the clones would just be seen as "Donors" or "spare-parts" which totally goes against ethics, as many would point out.(2)

Thus, there are many relevant arguments made by both sides that make it even more difficult of an issue to be definite about. For example, the idea that governments might use cloning for military purposes would be seen as a ridiculous idea by pro-cloning activists, who believe that a lot of work and money would be involved for a government to even begin to explore the possibilities of such an idea. (6) Then again, the anti-cloning activists would argue saying that with the progress that cloning is making, this idea would not be so ridiculous after all. Again, this argument could continue for an endless period of time.

Code of Ethics

The scientists of the Missiplicity Project answer to the question on ethics by saying that since they do believe in ethics, they developed their own "Code of Bioethics." This code sets out guidelines regarding issues such as ethical treatment of the animals as well as the "effort to minimize the waste of viable embryos" or the destruction of flawed embryos. The scientists believe that "cloning is definitely a new form of assisted reproduction, just as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization were new - and criticized as "ungodly" - in their day."(3)

Conclusion

Cloning is definitely a sensitive issue that must be handled carefully. Although cloning of animals has already been done, the human race may not yet be ready for the cloning of humans, regardless of the matter that it has already been done or not. There is no doubt in my mind that cloning has great advantages to it but with it comes the fear that many "lines" may be crossed which should not be crossed. Scientists may believe that ethics may cease scientific development but with care and regard for ethics that are also within reason, I believe that this development will not be ceased.

Definitions:

Uteri:(1)

1 : an organ of the female mammal for containing and usually for nourishing the young during development previous to birth -- called also womb

2 : a structure in some lower animals analogous to the uterus in which eggs or young develop

Embryo:(1)

1 b : an animal in the early stages of growth and differentiation that are characterized by cleavage, the laying down of fundamental tissues, and the formation of primitive organs and organ systems; especially : the developing human individual from the time of implantation to the end of the eighth week after conception

.

WWW Sources

1)(Merriam Webster Dictionary Online),Online Dictionary I used to define words

2)Introduction to Cloning,Explains Cloning in Simple Terms

3)The Missyplicity Project, First Dog to be Cloned

4)The Human Cloning Foundation,Organization's Site

5)Cloning,Show's both Pros and Cons on Cloning

6)Cloning,Pro-Cloning but shows Dangers of Cloning




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