The different characteristics of cloning
There are several meanings being attached to cloning today and they cause confusion and uncertainty. However, the general definition that most scientists use in describing cloning is the one that is relevant to the different processes for duplicating a biological material. Hence, the definition covers both the artificial and natural processes. Cloning by artificial means is the one most popularly identified with cloning: It is the creation of a clone scientifically, that is, by some conscious design or human interruption. Contrary to widespread belief, cloning can be considered a natural process, too. Natural cloning has been going on for billions of years.
Natural cloning occurs when an organism reproduces asexually or when two genetically identical twins are produced by a splitting of a fertilized egg. For example, when one takes a stem from a yam plant and plant it in the ground, a new plant would grow as it takes root. The new plant can be considered a clone in the sense that it is identical to its parent. Similar cloning takes place in grass, potatoes and onions. This is a technique for producing plants asexually. Humans have been using this vegetative technique in agriculture for thousands of years. The process has been helpful in environments where flowering and seedling establishment are infrequent.
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The table below shows the advantages and the disadvantage of plant cloning.
Advantages of plant cloning
Disadvantages of plant cloning
A lot of new plants can be grown in a short time
All plants have same genetic information so there is risk of diseases or pests
Little space is needed
No new characteristics
All new plants inherit the same characteristics
Like plants capable of asexual reproduction, the eggs of some animals can grow into adults in a different environment besides the body of its parent. The offspring are clones of the parent.
Another example of natural animal cloning is identical twins. Even though they are genetically different to their parents, they are naturally occurring clones of each other. Artificial cloning of animals is now normal in laboratories. The most famous example of animal cloning is Dolly the Sheep, born in the UK in 1997 using a technique called cell transferring.
This is the method:
1. An egg cell was removed from the ovary of an adult sheep, and the nucleus was removed.
2. Using scientific techniques, the empty egg cell was combined with DNA extracted from a cell of a donor sheep
3. The combined cell develops, using the DNA.
4. The result was Dolly, a genetically identical to the donor sheep.
It could be very useful and practical for us to be able to clone animals because they could provide extra food and could help find cures for diseases and further the research of medicines and vaccines.
There are many reasons as to why cloning is important today, and in the years to come. First of all, food shortage is increasingly becoming a major global problem. This is due to the high demand on food as the global population increases dramatically (the population is thought to rise from 6.5 billion to 9 billion in the next 10 years) this indicates that food is going to be a very important aspect in preventing world hunger. Presently, almost 1 billion people eat less than three times every day and approximately 400,000 die daily due to starvation. There are other factors such as extinction of species that have to be taken into account as well, but overall these present a scenario that is grim for human survival. Cloning presents one of the most effective solutions to challenges to human survival particularly as it addresses the problem in regard to our capacity for food production and in extending the span of human life.
How HUMANS CAN BE CLONED
The term human cloning is a process that produces a genetically identical copy of a human being. To clone a human in a lab, scientists have to take out the nucleus from a cell of an adult human donor and transfer it to an enucleated egg – a human egg with its nucleus removed. The fusion of the cell nucleus and the enucleated egg, which could be done through the application of a tiny electric current, would cause the development of an embryo and proceed to behaving like an ordinary fertilized egg, wherein the cells would begin to divide and differentiate and develop. The successful cloning process would give birth to an exact replica of the source of the cell nucleus.
There are three types of human cloning: reproductive cloning, therapeutic cloning and replacement cloning. The Human Genome Project differentiates them in this manner: Reproductive cloning is a cloning technology used to generate a human that has the same nuclear DNA as another currently or previously existing human. On the other hand, therapeutic cloning is the production of human embryos for use in research. The third type of cloning called replacement cloning exists in theory, and is a combination of therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Replacement cloning is the replacement of damaged, failed, or failing body through cloning caused by brain transplant.
Ethical issues have arisen particularly in the area of therapeutic cloning as it is the most widely used cloning technology today. Some people have considered the idea of growing and harvesting organs separately from a human as intrinsically wrong because in doing so a new organ supply could be made without any moral consideration for the human organisms being harmed.
Why undertake Human Cloning?
The implication of human cloning is important in several areas. Most important of this is that cloning is seen as a chance to cure incurable diseases. For instance, scientists could clone our genes in order to fix cells that cause diseases. This is demonstrated in the field of therapeutic cloning – the process by which a person’s DNA is used to grow an embryonic clone, but, instead of putting the embryo into a mother, its cells are used to grow stem cells. During the cloning process, there is a stage wherein the cells begin to change and develop into different types of cells that divide and grow to form the different organs. At this point they are harvested in an effort to produce genetically identical organs such as renal, cardiac and skeletal muscle tissue in a larger or adult animal to replace damaged ones. In January 2001, the British government passed rules to allow cloning of human embryos to prevent diseases such as Parkinson’s.
Some people may see cloning as a way to treat couples problems. It could be the answer for those people incapable of bearing children. It could also be used for couples who want their child to have genes from at least one of the parents. This procedure would involve injecting cells from a male, for example, into an egg, which would be inserted into the female’s uterus. Their child would look the same as the father.
Another way could be to clone dead relatives such as parents, grandparents etc. using their DNA. This would mean that you could be the parent of your grandmother or even your own parents. However this would may be viewed as morally and ethically wrong. One American couple has already paid about ï¿½250,000 to a company to clone his dead daughter using skin cells. Although there are laws in Europe that bans cloning of humans and animals, in many countries these laws are allowed.
It may take time for cloning to be fully accepted, as some people see it as not normal and immoral. But cloning technology is growing more important as days pass.
ETHICAL QUESTIONS ON HUMAN CLONING
Cloning technology is still in its early stages and about 98% of animal cloning attempts have failed. For example, in the case of the cloned sheep, Dolly: it was the only specimen that survived out of the 277 embryos created. The embryos are either not suitable for placing it into the uterus or they die shortly after birth. The clones that do survive suffer from diseases after their birth. Some clones have been born with useless hearts, lung problems, diabetes, blood vessel problems and not working immune systems. As it is, there is sufficient evidence that points to the fact that a human clone may not live as long as an average human and it may suffer from physical or mental health problems. The safety and ethical implications of this are far reaching. Critics focus on the fact that experimenting on human life or using it or disposing it without any moral consideration is really wrong.
There is also the issue of whether the clone would fit into a normal society. Does he have a parent? Will he inherit rights normally accorded to normal human beings? How would society treat him? There are so many other questions that need to be answered. A strong argument being raised beside the ethical concerns is that cloning would intervene on a crucial human experience – that of self-discovery – and that it would deny an individual the right to an ancestry, to a lineage, and to an independent identity in relation to one’s ancestors and relatives.
As demonstrated by this paper, cloning has been used by humans for thousands of years already and it could occur as a natural process as well. And so there is nothing so repugnant or alien about the process. When successful, the several kinds of cloning such as plant, animal, and therapeutic cloning has many uses and has boundless potential. Cloning can cure diseases and serve practical purposes by aiding in enhancing our food production capabilities.
Today, cloning is a very controversial issue because it intrudes on our very concept of life and our religion. People are torn between two valid arguments: one side points out that cloning goes against morality while the other stresses the fact that it offers very important opportunities for us in terms of solving problems such as hunger and diseases – factors that threatens human survival. The stem cell technology, for instance, is particularly helpful to us because it has the potential to save millions of lives and cure many people from diseases.
One day, human cloning may inevitably be allowed, however the valid questions being raised by critics must be addressed first. In addition, we need to think about the human cloning and its cost – whether the whole technology is worth it. Although the cloning of animals may be very important to prevent starvation or that it would contribute to the discovery of cures for diseases, there are still problems that must be addressed particularly in the area of safety.
Evaluation of References
Two of the most interesting references that I have used for this report include the online site of the Human Genome Project and Kerry Lynn Macintosh’s book called Human Cloning and Legal Rights. The Human Genome Project offers a wealth of information in regard to the cloning process and its numerous advantages. Data in regard to new developments in the field is also available. Macintosh’ work, on the other hand, provides the information for the opposing side in the cloning debate. The statistics on the failed cloning experiments could be found here as well as the positions of several prominent personalities that oppose the technology including former US President George W. Bush opinion on the matter. These two references offer both the positive and negative sides to cloning and given my own personal belief, each of these references was able to change as well as strengthen some of my perspectives on the subject.