“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrilsthe breath of life; and man became a livingsoul . . . and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman and brought her unto man.”
Human cloning is becoming one of the most controversial topics of our time. With recent technological breakthroughs, whole new fields are opening with amazing possibilities. Despite the great advantages that cloning can offer humanity, there are just as many negative aspects of the technology, which have given way to large anti-cloning groups who are gaining ground as to the future of this awesome power. In truth, cloning could very well be the best, or worst thing ever to happen to mankind.
The possibilities of human cloning are vast indeed, but research in the area has been dramatically restricted in the United States and in some other countries. Pro-life groups that oppose free access to abortion have considerable political power, and were able to have all human embryo research banned by the Reagan and Bush administrations in most of the 1980’s and the 1990’s (religoustolerance). Although the ban was lifted during the first days of Bill Clinton’s presidency, in 1997 he sent a bill to congress marked “immediate consideration and prompt enactment” stating that it would be illegal to create a human clone whether in private or public laboratories. Along with the US ban, nineteen European countries including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Moldova, Sweden, Macedonia, and Turkey, signed a protocol that would commit their countries to ban by law any intervention seeking to create human beings genetically identical to another human being, whether living or
dead. It rules out any exception to the ban, even in the case of a completely sterile couple. Britain and Germany however, did not sign this agreement. Germany claims that the protocol would be weaker than the anti-research laws they already have, while Britain strongly supports their decision to enforce freedom. French president Jaques Chirac stated that “Nothing will be resolved by banning certain practices in one country if scientists and doctors can simply work them elsewhere.” Despite all these obstacles, Dr. Richard Seed, a strong supporter of human cloning, caused uproar when he announced his plans to set up a clinic to clone human babies for infertile couples (CNN).
We may not know the individual or team who first performed cloning of human embryos, but the methods used have been understood for many years and actually used to clone embryos of cattle and sheep. It is likely this has already been successfully used on human embryos in secret. Robert J. Stillman and his team at the George Washington Medical Center in Washington D.C. took 17 flawed human embryos, which had been derived from an ovum that had been fertilized by two sets of sperm resulting in an extra set of chromosomes, and dooming the ovum’s future. The cells would have eventually died no matter how they were treated. Stillman’s experiment showed that the best results could be obtained by interrupting the zygote at the two-cell stage, separating the cells, and placing them in separate dishes as to allow them to begin growing again. Many of these pairs were able to develop to the 32-cell stage, but no further. They might have had the potential to develop further and even mature into a viable fetus, except the original ovum was defective and would have died anyway. For ethical reasons, the researchers selected embryos that had no possibility of ever maturing. The main motive of the experiment seems to have been to trigger public debate on the ethics of human cloning (religioustolerance).
Dr. Steven Muller headed a panel in the US whose mandate was to produce preliminary cloning guidelines. These would be used by the federal National Institute of Health to decide which cloning research to fund. The panel recommended that studies be limited to the use of embryos that developed during in vitro fertilization procedures that had been performed to assist couples in conceiving. Often, extra zygotes are produced that are either discarded or frozen for possible future use. They further recommended that any studies be terminated within fourteen days of conception. At that gestational age, neural cord closure begins; this is the start the development of nervous system.
The scientific community had deemed the actual act of cloning a mammal impossible, until Dr. Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Roslin, Scotland achieved it in July of 1996. The success of his experiment was communicated to the press on February 23rd 1997. “Dolly”, a seven month-old sheep, was displayed to the media; she was the first large cloned animal using DNA from another adult. Since Dolly’s conception, the Institute has successfully cloned seven sheep of three breeds. The technique that they developed can probably be applied to other domesticated mammals. On December 14 1998, researchers at the infertility clinic at Kyeonghee University in Korea announced that they had successfully cloned a human. Scientists Kim Seung-bo and Lee Bo-yeon took an ovum from a woman, removed its DNA and inserted a somatic cell from the same 30 year old woman into the ovum. Their reports stated: ” We were able to confirm division up to the fourth cell stage, the stage of embryo development when a test tube embryo is usually placed back in the uterus, where it then further develops into a fetus.” The goal of their research was not to clone a human, but to clone specific, genetically identical organs for human transplant. They did not implant the clone into a human uterus because of ethical considerations. They destroyed it. The Korean Federation for the Environmental Movement immediately issued a statement criticizing the study. Members of the Life Safety Ethics Association held protest demonstrations in front of the University (religioustolerance).
Despite popular belief, cloning has been used since the early 1950’s by farmers to ensure good crops using a technique in which the nucleus of an egg cell is destroyed, and replace it with a nucleus from the cell of a higher organism. The egg will then grow into a genetic copy of the donor organism. While this process can ensure crops identical to a previous harvest, It will not work on mammals, because of the tiny size of the eggs (Clone). Possibilities for cloning include such things as creating children for infertile couples, harvesting genetic copies of organs to avoid rejection by the immune system in transplants, or even going as far as to create replacement children for parents who have lost someone in some sort of accident. Cloning may even hold the key to a cure cancer.
The materials to create a laboratory can easily be purchased in most major countries at a fairly cheap price. A working cloning facility could be built in a garage with as little as $10000. In reality there is no way to prevent the cloning of a human being. It would be better for someone, who is responsible enough to use the technology intelligently, than for someone to use the secret of cloning to there own advantage (Kaku).
All in all, human cloning could possibly be the most significant event in human history. Should we take one road to a totalitarianistic society of genetically engineered clones like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or a world in which parents can create designer children with the characteristics of their choice as in the movie “Gattaca”? The incredible power held within our genes could possibly lead to a perfect society where peace and happiness reign supreme, or it could very well lead to the destruction of the human race itself.
http://www.cnn.com. accessed 4-7-99. “19 Europeans Nations Sign Ban on Human Cloning”. Posted January 12, 1998
http://www.cnn.com. accessed 4-7-99. “Clinton Act Draws Line At Human Cloning”.Posted October 23, 1997
Hartl, Daniel L. “Clone”. World Book Encyclopedia. 1996. page 685
http://www.humancloning.org. accessed 9-1-99. “Human Cloning Foundation”.
Kaku, Michiu. “Visions”. Anchor Books DoubleDay. New York, London, Toronto,Sydney, Auckland. 1997.
http://www.religoustolerance.com/cloning.htm. accessed 9-13-99. “Cloning”.