Essay on Animal Cloning

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Introduction

Cloning is a scientific process that has been around for over a hundred years. When one thinks of a clone and the techniques used to create them, it often seems like something out of science fiction. Not many realize that cloning has been happening naturally for millions of years, such as in identical twins and some forms of asexual reproduction. Cloning is most simply defined as taking genetic information from an organism and copying it. There are three different types of artificial cloning processes: gene, reproductive, and therapeutic. The first cloning study took place in 1885 by German scientist Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch. “In 1902, he… create[d] a set of twin salamanders by dividing an embryo into two separate, viable embryos, according to the Genetic Science Learning Center” (Bradford, 2017). Arguably the most famous case of cloning took place in 1996 when a female sheep gave birth to a Finn Dorset lamb named Dolly. Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned from the cells of an adult animal. However, Dolly did not live a very full life because she had multiple debilitating diseases. As the idea of cloning has become more widespread, opinions differ vastly on this subject not only in the scientific community but among many other groups as well.

Procedure

As stated before, there are three different types of artificial cloning. Gene cloning involves the extraction of DNA from an organism and breaking the bonds between the nucleotides with specific enzymes. Plasmids are combined with the genes and then transferred to living bacteria. Bacteria are not the only means by which this is done, but they are among the most common. The bacteria, known as a vector, implanted with the genetic material grow into colonies. When a gene of interest is spotted in a specific colony, the bacteria in the colony are propagated and millions of copies of the plasmid are made. This technique is primarily used by scientists wishing to study specific genes as it creates exact copies of genes or segments of DNA.

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The second method of cloning is reproductive. In this process, a mature somatic (non-reproductive) cell is removed from an organism. The cell’s DNA is transferred into an egg cell that has just had its DNA removed. The egg is then chemically induced to start the reproductive process and implanted into a female uterus of the same species as the egg. When the offspring is produced, its genetic makeup is the same as the donor of the somatic cell. An important thing to note is that the idea of a clone in this case refers to DNA in the nucleus (from one genetic parent, the donor) and not mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria are organelles in the cell that have their separate DNA and are not included in the process of reproductive cloning in cases of somatic DNA transfer. Reproductive cloning is the process that produced Dolly, the cloned sheep mentioned before. Embryo splitting is another form of reproductive cloning. This is done by in vitro fertilization, or the union of gametes outside the body to create a zygote. The zygote divides into four identical cells. The cells are then separated and implanted into the female uterus after developing into blastocysts. Embryo splitting is a process that results in identical nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, unlike somatic DNA transfer. When individuals think of cloning, they often think of multiple humans, which would be achieved by reproductive cloning.

The last method of cloning is known as therapeutic. Therapeutic cloning is like reproduction in its process, but the results are different. Therapeutic cloning does not involve directly copying genetic material for “making” a copy of an organism. In Alina Bradford’s Live Science article, she describes therapeutic cloning as “[a] cell [being] taken from an animal's skin and… inserted into the outer membrane of a donor egg cell. Then, the egg is chemically induced so that it creates embryonic stem cells.” The stem cells can be used to treat disease as they can replace damaged and dysfunctional cells within the body. They are known as pluripotent cells or cells that can boost all cells in the body except for embryos. Immunological rejection is eliminated with this process since the patient’s genetic material is used. Stem cell research is a heavily debated topic.

Application

Cloning is used in a myriad of areas. One of the main things it is used for is the advancement of medicine and how patients are cared for. Studies of disease can be performed by cloning a population of animals that all carry the same disease. This alleviates the time-consuming nature of manipulating genes to carry the disease-causing mutations, as the process is very much trial-and-error and takes several generations to produce enough progeny to study the disease effectively. As mentioned before, stem cells and their development can also be a form of cloning. In medicine, they are used to replace damaged tissue in patients. Those suffering from severe burns can have stem cell treatments to induce new and healthy skin cell growth. When stem cells are not clones of the original patient, an immunological rejection can occur. Cloned stem cells do not have this risk involved. Stem cells taken and cloned from a patient with a disease can then be used to further study that specific ailment and develop new and better treatments for it. Cloning can also be used to revive endangered or extinct animals as well. A well-preserved sample of DNA and a currently living and closely related species that could be an egg donor would be used in cases of extinction. However, this process has not been completely successful as the offspring of the resurrected species have rarely been viable. Endangered animals are much easier to work with in the sense that they can donate healthy, living cells. An issue with this process arises in the lack of genetic diversity among clones and the possibility of being unable to adapt to changes in the environment among future generations. The number of endangered species could rise exponentially, but this result could be short-lived. Other areas of cloning include cloning deceased pets by companies that charge upwards of $100,000 for their services and cloning livestock. Superior genes seen in some cows, pigs, etc. can be cloned to make for better meat or milk. Once an animal is slaughtered, its genes can be harvested to be passed on to future generations. Currently, there is a large amount of research into the process of cloning humans, something that is seen as immoral by some members of the public. Overall, cloning can be used to create better opportunities for research and genetically superior organisms.

Opinions

Opinions regarding cloning and its specifics vary widely among different groups. Human cloning is currently still illegal Some scientists and lawmakers view human reproductive cloning as immoral, while others see it as a way to solve infertility issues. There are no federal laws that regulate human cloning in the United States, but several states have adopted various policies that directly or indirectly prohibit human cloning for research or producing children. In part three of The Threat of Human Cloning by the New Atlantis, it is stated that “[t]he central moral objection to cloning-for-biomedical-research is that it involves the deliberate killing of human embryos.” In the opinion of this publication, embryos are just as much human as anyone else, and “killing” them for research or otherwise is morally wrong. It is also stated that the gathering of eggs for cloning research is problematic. Dr Brendan Curran, Researcher in Genetics, Cloning and the Public Perception of Science at Queen Mary, University of London believes that if human cloning were ever to be achieved humans would still retain their individuality because everyone is a product of multiple factors and not just their genetic makeup. He also states that scientists do everything in their power to prevent the production of offspring that are severely ill or disabled. Some animal suffering may be involved, but “[t]he potential gains for humanity have to be weighed against the potential suffering of the animal” (Curran, 2019). For some, the risks involved and the potential for a life of suffering for a cloned organism are not to be outweighed by the scientific benefits it could pose. The topic of cloning and what exactly it entails are a hot topic whether it be for financial, scientific, ethical, religious, or any other number of reasons.

Conclusion

To summarize, cloning is the copying of genetic material either naturally or in a lab. The term itself is comprised of three processes: gene, reproductive, and therapeutic, and each process yields different results. Gene cloning involves replicating a small section of a genome for research, reproductive cloning involves cloning an entire complex organism, and therapeutic cloning is done for the sake of creating healthy cells that will multiply and possibly increase an individual’s quality of life. Animal cloning has been occurring for years, but human cloning is illegal and generally unaccepted. Regardless of the reason for cloning taking place, some feel as if it is morally wrong to manipulate science and subsequently genetics this way. Human cloning will most likely not be achieved for a very long time due to expenses, difficulty, and conflict. There are pros and cons alike in different areas of cloning. Hopefully, the research being done can help scientists and others better understand genetics.

References

    1. (US), National Academy of Sciences, et al. “Cloning: Definitions And Applications.” Scientific and Medical Aspects of Human Reproductive Cloning., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223960/.
    2. “Appendix: State Laws on Human Cloning.” The New Atlantis, The Center for the Study of Technology and Society, 2015, www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/appendix-state-laws-on-human-cloning.
    3. Bradford, Alina. “Facts About Cloning.” LiveScience, Future US, Inc., 2 Mar. 2017, www.livescience.com/58079-cloning-facts.html.
    4. “Cloning Fact Sheet.” Genome.gov, National Human Genome Research Institute, 21 Mar. 2017, www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/Cloning-Fact-Sheet.
    5. “Dr Brendan Curran, Researcher in Genetics, Cloning and the Public Perception of Science at Queen Mary, University of London.” Centre of the Cell, Centre of the Cell, 2019, www.centreofthecell.org/learn-play/ethics/cloning/dr-brendan-curran/.
    6. Murnaghan, Ian. “Therapeutic Cloning.” ExploreStemCells, ExploreStemCells, 10 Feb. 2020, www.explorestemcells.co.uk/therapeuticcloning.html.
    7. “The Case Against Cloning-for- Biomedical-Research.” New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society, vol. 46, Summer 2015, pp. 51–73. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=112289885&site=ehost-live.
    8. “Why Clone?” Genetic Science Learning Center, University of Utah, 10 July 2014, learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cloning/whyclone/.

 

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