Pros and Cons of Cloning

January 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Pros and Cons

Contrary to popular notion, cloning started more than a century before Dolly, the first cloned mammal, became famous. It cannot be denied, nonetheless, that Dolly awakened the imagination of the populace regarding the pros and cons of cloning. It is a debate that continues to polarize society 15 years after the birth of the most famous sheep on Earth.

Inclusions in the Discussion

We must emphasize that the cloning referred to in this article refers to reproductive, gene and therapeutic cloning. Reproductive cloning is used in the creation of an animal with the same nuclear DNA as another animal, the latter of which may be currently or previously in existence. This was the technology used in the creation of Dolly.

Therapeutic cloning refers to the production of human embryos for the purpose of research. It has also been applied to create new organs or tissues for transplantation into a waiting patient with possible applications in the treatment of diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer.

These two types of cloning – there is a third type known as gene cloning, by the way – are at the center of heated debates. If you wish to cast your vote on the pros and cons of cloning, it is important to acquire as much reliable and relevant information and education on the matter.

Advantages of Cloning

With that being said, the following are the generally accepted benefits of cloning:

• Easy replacement of internal organs and tissues for patients in need of transplants instead of waiting for suitable organ donors, alive or dead. Since the transplanted organ contains most of the recipient’s genes, there is a lesser chance for rejection as well.
• Cloning can be a solution to the infertility issue among couples. Theoretically speaking, parents can choose the desirable qualities in their genes to be passed on to their children.
• Genetic research can immensely benefit from cloning especially in combating the wide range of genetic diseases.

Tipping the balance in the pros and cons of cloning is the fact the gene cloning can be harnessed to produce superior plants and animals to feed humanity. Genetic engineering has made great advances in this regard although it is also polarizing.

Disadvantages of Cloning

Of course, there are disadvantages to cloning that prevent the advances in this area to be made. Such disadvantages include:

• Genetic diversity and its benefits are weakened with the replicating process in cloning. We may be exposing ourselves to a compromised ability to adapt to our surroundings, not to mention that the beauty of diversity is lost.
• Unethical practices can result from cloning as unscrupulous individuals can breed individuals with certain traits.

Probably the most contentious issue in the debate about the pros and cons of cloning is the ethical side of the process. Is it ethical to act like God by creating an embryo that develops into a human being? Is it ethical to kill a pre-embryo in order to harvest its stem cells, which will then be cultivated into an organ for transplant purposes? Is it ethical to mess around with nature in the first place?

Indeed, if you must take sides in the pros and cons of cloning debate, your main responsibility is to enter it with an open, educated and informed mind first and stable emotions second.

Organ Cloning Ethics

January 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Ethics

Therapeutic cloning, which is also known as organ cloning, is the process of creating new human organs and tissues, never newborn babies, from the cultivation of stem cells. As such, the resultant organ has an identical gene structure as the recipient such that there are theoretically little chances for rejection. This definition is important in the discussion of organ cloning ethics since the general public tend to confuse therapeutic cloning with gene cloning, two different approaches resulting in two different results.

Root Cause of the Ethics Issue

The ethics issues arising from therapeutic cloning is the result of the debate about the sources of stem cells. Keep in mind that opponents of organ cloning assert that the human pre-embryos are the beginning of life itself and, thus, harvesting the stem cells by killing these pre-embryos is tantamount to murder.

Of course, there are other sources of stem cells including bone marrows, umbilical cord blood, and spare embryos from infertility treatments. But the main problem with these sources is their limited usefulness, viability and flexibility in organ replacement. Embryos and pre-embryos appear to be the most viable sources of stem cells with the most potential in therapeutic cloning.

And that’s where the contentious debate regarding organ cloning ethics begins. There is still no consensus about the morality of human embryo destruction at any stage in order to collect beneficial stem cells.

Sides of the Ethics Issue

As can be expected in a democratic society where everybody has the right to his own opinion, there are many sides to the ethics debate on organ cloning. Often, you may be compelled to choose on which side your vote will be cast on as the issue at hand can appear black and white with little gray areas in between.

On one hand, you have the sector in the organ cloning ethics debate that says human personhood starts at conception. Thus, cloning that results in the creation and the destruction of a pre-embryo is similar to killing a human being itself. The rationale is that when the pre-embryo is planted inside a woman’s uterus, it has a one in four chance of developing into an infant.

By extension, killing a human life even in the form of a pre-embryo in order to extend the life of another human being is immoral. Therapeutic cloning is then deemed unethical and must be stopped despite its possible benefits.

On the other, you will see the side of the organ cloning ethics debate with the assertion that the pre-embryo neither requires nor deserves any particular moral and ethical attention in whatever form. The pre-embryo itself is just a collection of cells with DNA but without the organs, limbs and brain that will make it human.

Yes, the pre-embryo can be human but only when it is allowed to develop until the point where it develops self-awareness. Other than that, it can be used for beneficial purposes especially in improving the quality of life and even in extending the life of other humans.

As you wade deeper into the organ cloning ethics debate, you will encounter middle grounds including one that asserts any potential benefit must be weighed against the sense of respect for the developing embryo. It is your choice in which side of the debate you wish to stand on.

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.