Biotechnology involves the use of living organisms. It is mainly used in agriculture, food science, and medicine. It is used all around the world, but mainly by the rich countries, like the United States, Spain, France and more. In medicine, biotechnology has many functions. From DNA sequencing, to healthcare biotechnology, to cell replacements. The main focus of this report is cloning. Cloning is the act of duplicating an organism through the use of biotechnology. Cloned subjects are known as clones. A clone is an organism that is an exact genetic copy. Every piece of their DNA is a copy of another organism. The first successful known case of cloning is Dolly The Sheep in 1997. Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell however, she died in 2003 because she had a progressive lung disease. Because of this, the clone also turned out to have this progressive lung disease and quickly died a few days later. See appendix 1 for more information about the life of Dolly The Sheep.
There are three main types of cloning, gene cloning, reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning. Gene cloning involves process in which a gene is chosen and duplicated out of the DNA that is removed from an individual. Reproductive cloning involves the creation of an animal that is genetically identical to a donor animal through the use of SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer). Therapeutic cloning is the production of stem cells with the same genetic composition as the patient. The type of cloning focused on for this report is reproductive cloning.
Reproductive cloning uses a method known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) in order to clone an animal. In somatic cell nuclear transfer, the nucleus, which contains the organism’s DNA, is removed using a glass needle under a microscope and the rest of the cell is discarded. At the same time, the nucleus of an egg is removed using a suction pipette to keep the egg still and a glass needle to extract the nucleus out. The nucleus of the somatic cell is then inserted into the enucleated cell using a smaller needle. After being inserted into the egg, the somatic cell nucleus is adjusted by the host cell. The egg, which now contains the nucleus of a somatic cell, is stimulated with shock and at the same time, will begin to divide. After many mitotic divisions, this single cell forms a blastocyst, which is an early stage embryo with about 100 cells, with almost identical DNA to the original organism. (James, 2014). See appendix 2 for a detailed picture outlining how somatic cell nuclear transfer works.
The purpose of this report is to investigate all the advantages and the disadvantages of cloning so that at the end, a justified decision is made on whether cloning should be or should not be allowed in the near future.
Past, Present and Future changes
In the past, the main method that scientists used to clone was IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation). It starts by taking the proper medication in order to allow the eggs to mature and be ready for fertilisation. The doctor then takes the egg out of the body and mixes it with sperm cells in a lab. This is to help the sperm to fertilise the egg. After, they put one or more of the fertilised eggs directly into the uterus. Pregnancy will occur when any of the fertilised eggs implant in the lining of the uterus. (Paransingh, 2015). View appendix 3 for more detailed information about how IVF works. This method however began to decrease in usage rate over the years after the SCNT method has been discovered.
The current preferred method of cloning that scientists use is SCNT (Somatic cell nuclear transfer). It is a strategy for making a usable embryo from body and egg cells. It involves taking an egg cell and implanting a body cell’s nucleus inside. Currently, this technique is used in most countries that look into cloning and how it can change the way we live. It has only been successfully conducted in one experiment involving the well-known sheep, Dolly. Almost all other experiments involving cloning have been regarded as failures as the clones either do not function properly, or die from organ failures. Not a lot of people, including scientists, agree with cloning. Dr. Wilmut, who is a famous embryologist opposed the idea of cloning and specifically said: “what are we doing? Playing God? It’s not up to us to create human beings in mechanical or scientific ways” (Rogers, 2015). However, many people do believe that given time, we will be able to master it and clone human beings.
A handful of strategies are available in order to improve cloning in the near future. The main strategy that could be used to improve cloning in the future is the use of unsilenced genes. Gene silencing is the regulation of gene expression in a cell to prevent the expression of a certain gene. Scientists in Harvard Medical School found that the inactive genes in the SCNT-generated embryos were held by a silencing mark in the form of a methylation tag on histone H3, which is a protein that packages the DNA found inside the cell. When the scientists removed those tags, they were able to increase the SCNT efficiency from 1%-2% to 8%-9%. (Ulrich, 2014) Therefore, in the future, it is recommended that scientists remove the methylation tags before undergoing SCNT to get maximum efficiency.
Advantages of Reproductive Cloning
Reproductive cloning can have a positive impact on humanity as a whole. Many people believe that reproductive cloning is the beginning of a new era where many possibilities of improvement for the human race are introduced through cloning.
The first and most obvious benefit is that reproductive cloning can provide genetically related children for people who cannot be helped by other fertility treatments (i.e. who have difficulty producing egg cells or sperm cells). (Tenzin, 2006). This is the argument that most people use when arguing FOR cloning to be legalised because it allows people who cannot have children to finally be able to raise their own genetically related children. Although the population of people that have difficulty producing sperm/egg cells is very small, if cloning could be perfected and used for this small group, it only opens the door for more improvements in the future.
The second advantage that reproductive cloning has is that it could help cure life threatening diseases. If a child is cloned to produce matching tissues that can be used to treat particular health condition, it means that people around the world will never have to worry about being diagnosed with diseases that could lead to their death. Cancer for example, if reproductive cloning can indeed cure it, then it would be the next best thing to the discovery of technologies that has forever changed human life. (Regoli, 2015)
Another advantage that reproductive cloning has is that it allows for organ replacement. If a person is cloned but suffers from kidney failure after for example, then they can bring the clone and take its kidney instead of taking a non-cloned person’s kidney. Another advantage of this is that the people suffering from organ failures will not have to worry about rejection because the organ will be the exact same as the healthy one. Therefore, the people do not have to worry about antirejection medication Because of this, some doctors believe that cloning should be legalised as soon as possible in order to satisfy the needs of the people that are waiting for an organ replacement.
Disadvantages of Reproductive Cloning
Like everything in biotechnology, reproductive cloning has many disadvantages that could have a negative impact on the human race. People are very hesitant when thinking about legalising reproductive cloning because just as it has many advantages that could enhance the medical world, it also has many disadvantages that could result in the diminishment of the medical world.
The first disadvantage that reproductive cloning has is that it is inherently unsafe. At least 95% of mammalian cloning experiments have resulted in failures in the form of miscarriages, stillbirths, and life-threatening anomalies; (Robinson, 2017). Experts have found that none of the animals cloned so far are fully healthy and that the technique cannot be developed in human beings without ensuring the safety of the clones and the women who take care of them. This argument is used by most people when arguing AGAINST cloning because it is uncertain what could happen if a cloned human being has health problems, and how that could affect the original person. (Strams, 2002)
The second disadvantage of reproductive cloning is that reproductive cloning could create a division among people. If cloning becomes legalised and many people are indeed cloned in the future, they may not be viewed as humans by other people, and mainly viewed as “just clones”. This in turn, could create division and unrest among people. Many also fear that this could only result in further problems among the population. (Diep, 2013)
The third disadvantage that reproductive cloning has is that it can simply be abused. Many people fear that the cloning technology could be abused by people with sick or selfish interests. (e.g. money or fame purposes). Others might use it for criminal or unlawful purposes. Many other people are also afraid that if cloning becomes common around the world, then many people would get cloned unwillingly by unethical individuals. (Strong, 2005)
Another disadvantage that reproductive cloning has, is that it would foster an understanding of children, and people in general, as objects that can be designed and manufactured to possess specific characteristics. (Editor In Chief , 2018). This means that clones can be whatever we want them to be (e.g. sex slaves, working slaves, etc…). This in turn would give the understanding that clones are simply objects or our own amusement. This could result in people fighting to get their hands on a clone to be able to enjoy the ‘benefits’ that they bring. This is a dangerous thought and thus the idea of cloning humans should be carefully reconsidered.
Therefore, after carefully considering all the advantages and the disadvantages of reproductive cloning, it has been decided that cloning SHOULD NOT be allowed until it has been proven via multiple tests and examinations that it guarantees the safety of the clones and the women who would bear them. It is also advised that the opinions of all the major countries of the world have been taken into account when making a decision about cloning and whether it should be legalised. Until then however, it should not be legalised.