Cloning: The Double-Edged Sword

Cloning: The Double-Edged Sword

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Cloning: The Double-Edged Sword


Such a furore was created when the birth of Dolly the sheep; the first successfully cloned mammal, was announced to the world in 1997, that the scientific community was gasping for air. Time and space seemed to have come to a virtual standstill as scientists vigorously, not to mention obsessively, hypothesized the cosmic future potential of Dr. Wilmut's team's revolutionary breakthrough in the dynamic realm of science. The euphoria of the moment, it seems, took some time to settle before scientists began to unravel the possible detrimental ramifications of the discovery. Have Dr. Wilmut and team then generated a scientific miracle on one hand, while opening a Pandora's box on the other?

It is difficult to dispute the fact that the successful cloning of Dolly has far-reaching applications in the twin fields of biotechnology and bioengineering. The advanced genetic reprogramming techniques employed to fashion the clone have opened the door to a multitude of potential avenues for application: genetic engineering of organs for transplant purposes, xenotransplantation, cell therapy for illnesses such as Leukaemia, Parkinson's disease and diabetes, "therapeutic cloning" (the notion of growing tissue for patients that is genetically identical to their own, for example neural cells could be made for people with Parkinson's disease, new muscle for those with ailing hearts and, later, perhaps even whole organs might be grown, all free from the threat of tissue rejection), and even in curtailing the extinction of endangered animal species, just to name a few.

While the advantages of nuclear transfer and genetic reprogramming seem manifold, the cloning and 'manufacture' of transgenic life forms for research purposes, and not to mention the prospect of cloning humans, unearths countless compelling ethical questions which can, in my opinion, under no circumstances be satisfactorily answered. Here are a few to whet your appetite- Do we humans have the moral right to 'play God'? What would happen to animals (or humans) cloned unsuccessfully; with deformities, since the technology and its complementary knowledge are still embryonic and in their primacy? How would we ascribe an identity to a human clone? Since there is no powerful and effective international regulation on the utilization of this technology in place today, how can we know for sure it is not being misused?

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Therefore, in a certain sense one could argue that Dr. Wilmut and his team did the world both a service and disservice, for on one hand their discovery has led to significant inroads in the fields of bioengineering and biotechnology but on the other, it has induced the genesis of an entourage of moral, ethical and even practical backlash and malpractice. Technology is, after all, a double-edged sword.
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