The Process of Cloning and the Ethics Involved

Cloning is a biomedical engineering process that has come into the national spotlight in recent months. In 1996, embryologists at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland amazed scientists around the world as they were the first to successfully produce a clone using a specialized cell from an adult vertebrate. Although it is considered a biological breakthrough, the event has produced controversy over the ethics of the process.

Cloning is a process that has been attempted for years, but it was never successfully performed until 1996. Scientists assumed that the cells of mature organisms were too specialized to be cloned. However, Roslin researchers solved this problem by starving a ewe’s specialized udder cell of nutrients. The process itself is not complicated when put into simple terms. One explanation of the now famous “Dolly” cloning process divides it into six main steps.

The first task that the embryologists at Edinburgh performed was the objective of placing an udder cell from a donor ewe into a solution for a few days. This step ensured that the cell would not receive any nutrients in order to make it non-specialized.

The next task for the scientists was to remove the nucleus from the egg cell of another provider ewe by means of a thin pipette.

After both of these steps were completed, scientists retrieved the non-specialized cell and the enucleated egg cell, and both cells were fused with an instant spark of electricity.

Next, both cells fused to produce one new cell. This cell contained the donor ewe’s udder cell nucleus and genes, and the egg provider’s cell surrounded the nucleus.

The next to last step involved the product cell growing into an embryo. The researchers then took this embryo and implanted it into the womb of a surrogate sheep mother.

Finally, after a period of time, the surrogate mother gave birth to the resulting lamb which was named “Dolly”. Dolly, the final product, was an exact genetic duplicate of the donor ewe, or in other words, Dolly was the donor ewe’s clone.

Although a biological marvel, the cloning of “Dolly” brought about fears of the future of cloning. Many animal-rights and ethics experts questioned the right of humans to play “God” in duplicating natural organisms. After a Chicago scientist announced his intention to work to clone a human, heated debates erupted over the morals of playing with human life. However, the FDA has the final say in the legality of cloning a human being. Also, concerns were raised over the cloning of “Dolly”. Since Dolly was a genetic duplicate of a six-year old animal, there was worry over whether Dolly’s chromosomes might contain genetic damage as a result. Premature aging was a concern because Dolly’s chromosomes contained characteristics of an older animal. As a result of all these concerns, many scientists are opposed to the cloning of a human. Some additional ethical questions could arise if a human was to be cloned. Parents might start to base their affections for their offspring on selected traits opposed to basing affections on the uniqueness and individuality of a naturally conceived child. In addition, cloning for eugenics (the scientific improvement of the human race) is also an issue. Ethicists worry that the selective breeding of humans to be used for slavery or warfare could undermine the preciousness of human life.

On the other hand, cloning may have unlimited benefits, according to proponents of the process. A strong argument in favor of cloning is that cloning could possibly be the only way for an infertile couple to have children. Also, some scientists support the ideas that cloning could help humans gain more knowledge about genetic diseases, and they also argue that suitable organs could be grown for organ transplants. Also, advocates of cloning say that a misconception of cloning is that the clone is an exact identical in all aspects to the original organism. To correct this, they point out that the clone is younger than the original, thus making it a delayed twin and a separate individual. In addition, these scientists argue that the environment of which the clone grows up in determines its personality and individuality. Therefore, the clone would not develop in the exact same way as the original,