Cloning, a reproductive process resulting in two or more identical copies of organisms is a relatively new field of inquiry, making genetically identical organisms artificially. Within the world of science there are two categories of cloning, natural cloning such as identical twins and artificial cloning which is a clone produced by artificial means. There are also three types of artificial cloning including therapeutic cloning, reproductive cloning and gene cloning. But is it ethical to clone for the purpose of creating an identical and genetic copy of another organism? And how does it help to alter the genetics and circumventing self-induced genetic impurities?
Natural cloning has always occurred as has natural selection along with evolution which has allowed organisms to evolve throughout the history of earth. It was not until the recent 1900’s that scientists discovered artificial cloning could be used for a diverse range of applications such as creating genetically pure humans, reproducing replacement organs for organisms along with biological applications which can replace mutated genes, curing genetic inherent disorders and much more. However, these discoveries are debatable topics in which the ethical standpoints must also be considered before artificial cloning is fully embraced and used throughout today’s society.
The process of cloning an animal is similar to that of a human, hence the following procedure can be likened to the process of cloning humans. Reproductive cloning begins with removing a mature somatic cell from a chosen animal to be cloned. Following this step is the transferation of DNA where the DNA from the somatic cell is injected into an oocyte (an empty egg) from which the DNA has been removed. The oocyte is left to develop into an early-stage embryo within specific conditions, then the embryo is implanted into the womb of an adult female which will then be expected to give birth to what is called a clone with genetically identical genes to that of its other, (NIH, 2017). However, despite years of research, cloning only has a 5% chance of success (AAVS, 2010) which could be unviable if clones were to be reproduced.
Firstly, genetic on cloning, or gene cloning, is the process by which a gene is cloned by isolating a specific gene a locus of a chromosomal cell (the location of a gene on a chromosome) and making a duplicate of the gene. “Cloning genes can be useful in curing and treating genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis and Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)” (Munye, 2014). This process would result in a cell’s genes being modified and replaced for a desired reason which would eventually be replicated by mitosis, subsequently removing the mutation being expressed in the organism. A similar approach to genetic cloning is called Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), (Genetics, 2017) this method uses a different approach than artificial embryo twinning, however it process produces the same result, a clone of an organism. This method could also be considered as genetic engineering as it involves deliberate alteration in the characteristics and genetic information of an organism. While genetic cloning could be applied to remove defective mutations and cure those with genetic predispositions, this could consequently result in a loss of human identity and genetic diversity while also counteracting religious and ethical beliefs.
Similar to genetic cloning is therapeutic cloning which involves producing embryonic stem cells as replacements for repairing damaged tissues or organs within an organism. Most cells in therapeutic cloning are produced by the use of SCNT. This process is achieved by transferring a diploid nucleus from a body cell into an egg whose nucleus has been removed, this allows the cell to grow and replicate the organ desired. Therapeutic cloning can be used for organ replacements such as hearts or kidneys to essentially prolong the life of an individual and possibly eliminate death and the finite existence of humanity. This is why some may argue in favour of therapeutic cloning for the purpose of medical development, “Many scientists who urge a ban on reproductive cloning urge that the ban not be extended to therapeutic cloning and the harvesting of stem cells to cure disease,” (Smith, 2005). This is a valid argument for therapeutic cloning, however, contrary sources state “We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts, or creating life for our convenience.” (Smith, 2005). This means that therapeutic cloning only serves to further exacerbate the ongoing problems associated with discovering the causes of disease and genetic disorders.
Genetic cloning can be likened to that of reproductive cloning in the sense that it also clones parts of the organism except in reproductive cloning, the entire organism is cloned such as a human which has genetically identical genes to that of the original organism. This was first discovered when Dolly the sheep became the first clone produced from an adult somatic cell by the use of SCNT, creating the first mammalian clone in the history of science. This was a controversial discovery sparking uproar in opposition as cloning a mammal was considered by many a very similar animal to that of a human, as people are considered mammals. Hence, the disapproval was intended to emphasise the implications of cloning and how it could threaten the very rights of humans. (University of Edinburgh, The Roslin Institute, Centre for Regenerative Medicine, 2017). Annas, a health law professor at Bostin University argues ‘human cloning should not be legalised lest it lead to a world in which people are commodities,’ (Fitzgerald, Seva, 1997) which is a plausible prognosis of the possible future of genetic cloning.
While there are also many people that hold the favourable sentiment of cloning due to its multiple advantages, most do not consider and perhaps overlook the consequences and repercussions associated with such ambitious undertakings. Cloning humans is currently illegal with 70 countries banning it world-wide (Cohen, 2015). This is not based on any fallacy as can be seen from an ethical standpoint, cloning humans is unnatural and can cause many problems associated with reproduction and health. Human cloning can be considered by many a violation of human rights (Shalev, 2002), where cloning does not respect human dignity, liberty or ethicality (Shalev, 2002). Another source corroborating the ethical standpoint of cloning states that “reproductive cloning is an act of human rights violation,” (Dr. Bansal, 2015). These sentiments are of no less importance than those of the monumental advancement in technology enabling us to clone humans. Thence, it must be considered thoroughly before making any further advancements or declarations of any official authorisations permitting cloning.
Duplicating genetically pure organisms may be considered beneficial to the advancements of humanity in the sense that people may have all the desirable traits with no diseases or debilitating illnesses. Conversely, the issue of cloning raises the concern that human health can be largely affected as there will be little genetic diversity, and thus altering and eliminating variation from the gene pool, causing people to be susceptible to specific diseases which will effect large populations. This lack of genetic diversity can also be seen to effect reproduction as the organisms won’t be able to adapt to the constant environmental change, causing them to be affected by inbreeding and environmental pressures, which otherwise would not have been a problem if natural selection was the predominating means of reproduction. As stated by the NIH in response to reproductive cloning, from an ethical standpoint it can cause “conflict with long-standing religious and societal values about human dignity, possibly infringing upon principles of individual freedom, identity and autonomy,” (NIH, 2017). It can be observed that duplicating humans could result in future generations being of a genetic and intellectual superiority race, however this may conflict with long standing religious, ethical concerns pertaining to cloning.
The method of natural selection and evolution has existed for countless years, and an alteration of this system may inadvertently result in unpredictable and undesired outcomes. Humans are trying to counteract the natural selection by means of reproductive intervention to enable them to continue with their unhealthy lifestyle choices (Smith, 2005). As a result of this, we see a population with similar degenerative diseases due largely to very similar lifestyle choices. Although it is possible to cure these diseases with genetic and therapeutic cloning, this could result in exploitations of the system where people could intentionally lead unhealthy lifestyles and simply replace their defective organs or mutations when soever one is to falter.The solution is simply to live healthier which will negate the need for unnecessary interventions like cloning to counteract the negative lifestyle choices of today, and thus prevent disease, ameliorate mental health while also improving the longevity of individuals.
Cloning has many benefits such as replacing defective genes, organs and also creating a society where disease is eliminated in a genetically engineered population. However, as well as being an unpredictable system with 95% of cloning attempts failing (AAVS, 2010). Cloning also irrevocably changes the gene pool to one with minimal genetic diversity.
- AAVS (Amarican Anti-Vivisection Society), (2010). Fast Facts About Animal Cloning. Accessed: 5/09/2017. URL: https://www.endanimalcloning.org/factsaboutanimalcloning.shtml
- Carmel, Shalev (2012). Health and Human Rights Vol. 6, No. 1 (2002), pp. 137-151. Viewed: 27/08/2017. URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4065317?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
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- Cohen, Haley (31 July 2015). “How Champion-Pony Clones Have Transformed the Game of Polo”. Vanity Fair. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
- R.K. Bansal (2015). Reproductive Cloning-an Act of Human Rights Violation. Accessed: URL: http://medind.nic.in/jal/t05/i3/jalt05i3p180.pdf
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- Genetics (27 August 2017) what is cloning?. Accessed: 27/08/2017. URL: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cloning/whatiscloning/
- NIH – National Human Genome Research Institute (21 March 2017). What are some of the ethical issues related to cloning?. Accessed: 27/08/2017. URL: https://www.genome.gov/25020028/cloning-fact-sheet/
- Qasim, Munye (18th September 2014), Gene Cloning and Its Medical Uses; Accessed: 27/08/2017. URL: https://www.bsgct.org/gene-cloning-and-its-medical-uses/
- University of Edinburgh, The Roslin Institute, Centre for Regenerative Medicine. (2017, August 23). The Life of Dolly. Retrieved from BBSRC, dolly.roslin.ed.ac.uk: http://dolly.roslin.ed.ac.uk/facts/the-life-of-dolly/index.html