In the past few years, the topic of cloning has been in the news a lot. It is a very controversial issue, with many opposing viewpoints. While some find it acceptable, others object for religious reasons. A big concern is the possibility of abuse of this new technology. One of the big questions is “Where will we stop?” We may start by just experimenting and studying, but then what? Manufacturing human bodies for spare parts? No one can be sure where it will stop. The Supreme court says that everyone has the right to make their own reproductive decisions without government interference, but now it is proposing bans on human cloning. These bans prevent the very research needed to make cloning safe (Eibert). So, it seems that the government is not giving human cloning a chance. There are many benefits to cloning in the fields of fertility, organ transplants, and fighting disease. Although there are many benefits, the possible effects and moral considerations are too great for us to continue experimentation.
One of the major benefits of cloning technology is improvement in the field of fertility. In vitro fertilization only has a success rate of about 10%. To improve effectiveness, doctors could clone embryos, and the success rate could drastically increase (Masci 413). Another benefit in the field of fertility is that parents unable to conceive naturally, even with in vitro, or people too old to conceive, could still have a genetically related child (Masci 413-414). With cloning, egg and sperm would not be necessary for reproduction, because any body cell would work (Eibert). The resulting offspring would actually be a replica of one parent (Masci 413-414). Other benefits to using cloning come in the field of fighting disease. When genes are not in use, they become dormant. In order for cloning to take place, all genes must be active. Discovering how genes are turned on and off could lead to treatment for different cancers (Masci 414). Cloning could also revolutionize the field of organ transplant. Organs and bone marrow could be cloned and used for transplant. Thousands of people die waiting for transplants, so this could save many lives. In addition, the organs used in the transplant could come from the same patient, reducing the risk of rejection by the body (Masci 414). To treat heart attack victims, doctors could clone healthy heart cells and inject them into damaged areas of the heart (Masci 415).
A Dialogue Paper on Human Cloning
A Dialogue Paper on Human Cloning
This dialogue is between two students at the university. Steve is a little uncomfortable about cloning, while Sally presents many valid arguments in favor of it. Steve presents many moral questions that Sally answers.
Steve: Hi, Sally. Are you aware that the Scottish embryologist, Ian Wilmut, cloned a sheep from adult cells, and now, there are many moral, economic, and political questions that must be answered.
Sally: Interestingly enough, I was just reading about this topic in a magazine. I was amazed at the simplicity of the cloning process used by Dr. Wilmut and his colleagues. The process of cloning a sheep begins by taking the cells from the udder of an adult sheep, and placing them in a culture with few nutrients. The purpose of this is to starve the cells so that they stop dividing. This switches off the active genes. While they starve these cells, they take an unfertilized egg from a different ewe, and remove the nucleus from this unfertilized egg. Then, they place the unfertilized egg cell next to one of the original starved cells
Steve: How do the two cells come together? Does it happen spontaneously?
Sally: No, it does not happen spontaneously. An electric pulse fuses the two cells together. A second electric pulse makes the cell divide. After six days, Dr. Wilmut placed this embryo into a different ewe, and after a normal gestation period, the new baby sheep named Dolly was born. She was named after Dolly Parton.
Steve: But cloning is not new. In 1952, researchers in Pennsylvania cloned a live frog. What makes Dr. Wilmut’s achievement so special?
Sally: Yes, it is true that a frog was cloned in 1952, but those scientists used an embryonic cell. Dr. Wilmut used an adult cell.
Steve: What is the difference between using an embryonic cell and an adult cell?
Sally: Embryonic cells are “undifferentiated.” Undifferentiated cells have not gone through changes that make some cells into skin cells or muscle cells or brain cells, for example. Undifferentiated cells can become any cell in the body because it can activate any gene on any chromosome, but as cells develop, the DNA of certain cells fold in particular ways making large portions of the DNA inaccessible. This makes sure that the wrong genes do not get turned on at the wrong time or in the wrong place.