Is Human Cloning Real?
It sounds like something you would read in a science fiction novel and it is almost absurd and some would argue even morally sickening to think that human cloning is real and is actually being done and taking place. But that is what in a sense has been happening, since scientists have recreated an exact copy of a mammal using cloning technology. In 1996, British embryologist Ian Wilmot became the first scientist to successfully reproduce an exact carbon copy of the mother of “Dolly The Sheep”. Dolly was created from her own mother’s breast tissue using a somatic cell after a total of 267 failed attempts of embryos being created and destroyed. Since then the technology has significantly improved and advanced and also many other animals have been cloned, including pets and even human embryos.
The origins of cloning started with a company named “Clonaid”, an American-based human cloning organization. The company was founded in 1997 by the Raelian religious sect and has philosophical ties with the UFO religion “Raëlism”, which believes alien species originally cloned human beings and views cloning as the first step in achieving immortality. The organization has received a grand mixture of controversial comments ever since, some calling it unethical or even disgusting, while others call it a huge positive advancement in human and scientific development. Brigitte Boisselier, a French biochemist and chief executive of Clonaid, later even announced at a press conference in Hollywood, Florida in 2002 that the first human clone baby was born, named Eve. However there is no physical proof of that being true, as Boisselier did not present the mother, child, nor DNA samples as evidence of her claim to the public. As of late 2018, there is no confirmation of a successful human clone being created by the cloning facility company.
The cloning of Dolly became a definite break-through in the scientific arena and it quickly rose a lot of questions for scientists whether or not the same technology could successfully and potentially be used to clone other things, such as body parts or human organs for people with diseases or victims of severe accidents. Right now it has become possible to clone human organs by cloning embryos with the help of SCNT, extracting the stem cells from the blastocyst and stimulating the stem cells to differentiate into the desired organ. On another note, there was also no question in the minds of most scientists active in the field, that sooner or later there would be a scientist whose curiosity exceeds ethical human behavior and ultimately would experiment with the purpose of cloning human beings for wrong reasons. Interestingly enough, Hitler had a true desire to develop cloning technology and to clone himself as well as his master race as a tool to win over his opponents and succeed in his targets. However as of currently, government funding on cloning has been banned ever since president Clinton’s administration questioned human cloning research. Some countries even agreed on certain laws to prevent cloning research to continue.
Despite the excitement of positive results in the cloning department, the potential future outcome of human cloning scares a lot of people. Some families who have lost a child are happy to pay millions to “have their child back”, at least that is what it feels like to them since the cloned child will have the same physical features and DNA strands of the deceased child. But what about the future outcome for the child itself? Scientists in the department say that the results are very likely to turn out to be catastrophic and that the child will most likely suffer emotional and psychological problems due to identity problems. Another issue is that scientists involved in human cloning are potentially playing a dangerous game by “playing God”, as health risks due to gen mutation, especially in the early research fases, as well as the long-term results of human cloning are still relatively unknown, especially on a physical level. Another important regard is that it could also cause issues in the way couples are reproducing and creating families, as people would make less babies “the natural way” and become more accustomed to technology for reproductive purposes. Not to mention that genetic defects could be recreated to future generations and diversity in the genetic clan could also dissipate.
The biochemical process of cloning
The actual biochemical process of cloning seems to be not that complicated. The process goes as follows: “A cell is taken from the human body and its nucleus is being removed, then an egg is taken and also its nucleus is taken out, next the new nucleus is put inside the egg and a tiny spark of electricity is used to make them fuse, forming a human embryo. Ultimately the embryo is being put back into the uterus of the woman with gestate and it becomes a human being.” – Dr. Gregory Pence , Professor of Bio-Ethics University of Alabama, Montgomery.
It used to be believed that once a cell becomes differentiated, it can not become indifferentiated again. That statement has obviously proven itself to be false now. Alan Archibald, who was part of the 1996 experiment facilitated by the UK's Roslin Institute explains: “There was a view that once a fertilized egg had developed into a multicellular animal, into liver cells and blood cells and brain cells, for those…cells, that was it, it was a dead end. There was no way back to alternative places for those cells to be. So the reprogramming that was critical to the Dolly experiment stood long-standing scientific dogma on its head."
About the creation of Dolly
“Dolly was cloned from a mammary gland cell taken from a six-year old sheep (her mother). The cell was cultured in a laboratory for several weeks and then transferred to an egg, from which the maternal DNA had been removed. That created a reconstructed embryo, that embryo is activated by a small electric shock and in a small proportion of cases those embryos develop normally.” – Dr. Harry Griffin, Assistant Director Roslin Institute. Furthermore out of nearly 300 embryos that were used, 4 out of 5 clones created along with Dolly survived a longer duration of time. All the other brothers and sisters of Dolly died at birth or soon after. She gave birth to six babies and died of lung disease at the age of six, which was the same age of her genetic mother when Dolly came into existence. Sheep can live up to become 11 or 12 years old, but Dolly's telometers were much shorter than normal at the time of birth, due to the fact that she was a copy of a sheep that was already six years old.