Therapeutic Cloning

January 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Therapeutic Cloning

Therapeutic cloning, also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, was first accomplished in November 2001 by the Advanced Cell Technology. It is now one of the polarizing topics in society where every man and woman who has ever heard of it even in passing will have an opinion, which can either in the negative or positive with a few still undecided on the matter.

Significant Difference

But before anything else, it must be emphasized that there is a significant difference between somatic cell nuclear transfer and human DNA cloning. Such difference is often overlooked in debates about the ethics of these practices, which only serves to confuse the general public about the issue. As a result, reasonable discussions, beneficial advances and useful applications that should have been made in therapeutic cloning are virtually at a standstill.

On one hand, DNA or gene cloning pertains to the creation of multiple copies of isolated DNA fragments through in vivo or in vitro methods. Its applications include genetic fingerprinting especially in criminal cases, genetic engineering in the creation of superior plants, and in genome sequencing for encoded protein, among others.

On the other hand, somatic cell nuclear transfer involves the cultivation and extraction of stem cells to create a complete human organ or a piece of human tissue for transplant purposes. In this case, the clone is not a human being but a specific part only such as a replacement organ, a certain expanse of skin or nerve tissue.

With such a differentiation in mind, you can then make a more informed opinion of the pros and cons of therapeutic cloning. Your life and those of the ones you love may very well depend on its success for medical purposes.

Similarities in the Process

We must also note that both types of cloning, gene and therapeutic, are achieved using similar processes especially during the initial stages. There will be differences along the way, thus, the different results that these cloning types provide for scientists. To put the process simply:

• A woman’s ovum is removed of its DNA material
• DNA is extracted from another human being’s cell, which will then be inserted into the woman’s ovum
• An electrical shock is introduced into the ovum with the aim of creating a pre-embryo
• The pre-embryo develops to produce stem cells although it will not be implanted in the uterus
• The stem cells are harvested from the pre-embryo and allowed to grow into the desired organ or tissue
• The resulting organ or tissue is then transplanted into the patient

Again, the result of therapeutic cloning is just a particular human tissue or organ, not a full human being with full faculties intact.

From such thought, you will be able to conclude a variety of beneficial applications for somatic cell nuclear transfer. Replacement tissues and organs can easily be found for many disorders and diseases of the human body including diabetes, blindness, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, cystic fibrosis, lymphoma and infertility with many advantages over the conventional transplant methods.

Of course, scientists must surmount the problems that beset the success of therapeutic cloning including the ethics issue. But for now, we have hope that someday it can be of use to humanity.