Bio-ethics and Cloning

Bio-ethics and Cloning

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Bio-ethics and Cloning


The idea that humans might someday be cloned-created from a single somatic cell without sexual reproduction-moved further away from science fiction and closer to a genuine scientific possibility on February 23, 1997. On that date, The Observer broke the news that Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute announced the successful cloning of a sheep by a new technique that had never before been fully successful in mammals.

The scientists from Roslin Institute of Edinburgh isolated differentiated somatic cells of Finn Dorset sheep and fused them with unfertilized enucleated eggs. The "fertilized" eggs soon developed into embryos which were in turn transplanted into female sheep, where the lambs are born naturally.1 The resulting birth of the sheep, named Dolly, on July 5, 1996 appears to mark yet another milestone in our ability to control, refine, and amplify the forces of nature. Yet, the fact that Dolly's paper just scrapes into the top 10 scientific papers published in 19972, showed that cloning was not a much credited technology in science. So why was there so much limelight on Dolly? If it were possible to clone a mammal, would the cloning of human's be next?

Dolly's arrival opened debate in fields where ethicist dreaded to go. Some scientists - including Ian Wilmut - don't support human cloning. Those in favor see it as another method in the growing pantheon of human reproductive technologies3. One unique prospect, vividly raised by Dolly, is the creation of a new individual genetically identical to an existing (or previously existing) person - a "delayed" genetic twin. This prospect has been the source of the overwhelming public concern about such cloning. People have frequently expressed fears that the widespread practice of somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning would undermine social values by opening the door to a form of eugenics or by tempting to manipulate others as if they were objects instead of persons4.

Ethicists and governments have thus far reach a consensus on a ban on all types of cloning of human beings. However, with leading Italian embryologist Severino Antinori researching intensely on human cloning5, and Richard Seed's expansion into Japan with future plans of human cloning6, should we wonder about the inevitable cloning of human beings?

At present, companies are set up to embrace this new cloning technology. While "Genetic Savings and Clone" in Texas intends to clone pets and opens its doors for

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mass-market business earlier this year7 (for $1000, the company will store cells from your pet until cloning become feasible and affordable), Richard Seed set his sight to clone pets and rare species in his laboratory in Kamifurano at Hokkaido, Japan6. Even though these cloning are still acceptable in the current bio-ethics standards, a deep-rooted fear constantly haunts us on when these scientists would inevitably cross the line.

References:

1. http://www.sciam.com/explorations/030397clone/030397beardsbox.html "How to Clone a Sheep", Scientific America Exploration, March 3, 1997

2. "Gene pips Dolly" from New Scientist magazine, vol 157 issue 2126, 21/03/1998, page 23

3. http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/1998/08/13/fp51s1-csm.htm "Cloning's Double Trouble" by Jane Lampman, Christian Science Monitor, 13/08/1998

4. "Cloning Human Beings" Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, page 63

5. "Dolly Leads the way" from New Scientist magazine, vol 160 issue 2158, 31/10/1998, page 25

6. "Cloning's maverick goes East" by Peter Hadfield, Tokyo from New Scientist magazine, 12 December 1998

7. "Reconstructing Rover" from New Scientist magazine, 26 February 2000
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