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Cloning and Embryo Research: The Science Fiction Reality
The idea of cloning a life form seemed like something read from a science fiction novel just ten years ago. Now, the theories, ideas and facts of cloning embryos have made cloning one of the most talked about social issues of our time. The researchers of this scientific breakthrough have made a lot of progress in recent years. Many have heard of Dolly, the cloned sheep, and that’s just the tip of the ice burg. This is undoubtedly the biggest and most recent breakthrough science has seen in some time.
Cloning research started in Scotland. According to an article in Science News Online, “Scottish investigators grew embryo cells of Welsh mountain sheep in the laboratory. During a relatively stable stage of the cell cycle, they transferred 244 of the nuclei to the stripped-down eggs of Scottish blackface ewes” (Adler Par. 8). These nuclei had a full set of chromosomes, so fertilizing the eggs was not necessary. They then gave the eggs an electric shock to “initiate development” (Adler Par. 9). This was done after years of endless research. There was extensive research done in the area of embryo stem cells. Scientists have used such mouse stem cells for nearly a decade to create genetically altered mice (Travis Par. 8). Kaye Tucker of World Socialist Web Site writes, “These basic cells are present in the earliest stages of developing embryos and are able to develop into virtually any type of cell and tissue in the body” (Par. 3). This is where genes can be altered and clones can be made. It has been a hard task locating and being able to work with these stem cells because they are only around for a short time (Tucker Par. 6). The possibilities for new research are endless.
Other than a social issue, the idea of cloning has become a moral issue. Many have asked the question, ‘Should we clone humans?’, and more have answered it. There are many who have strong opinions on the subject. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas is quoted as saying, “The prospect of government-sponsored experiments to manipulate and destroy human embryos should make us all lie awake at night” (“Embryo” Par. 5). Researchers have been and wish to continue using surplus embryos for experimentation. Most of the breakthroughs made have been done using donated embryos (Tucker Par. 9). This moral issue has also come up in many theological discussions.
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The potential this breakthrough has brought could very well be endless. These researchers have opened up many doors for science. Science News Online’s J. Travis states, “human embryonic stem cells could shine a light on such mysteries as how developing cells commit to becoming neurons or other types of cells” (Travis Par. 21). Dr. Brigid Hogan who was the scientific co-chairwoman and principal author of a National Institutes of Health agreed to an interview with Nicholas Wade of the “New York Times on the Web”. In the interview, Wade gives an idea of the potential of embryo research when she speaks of Dr. Hogan’s research, “With a group of 11 people, including graduate and postdoctoral students, she is trying to reverse-engineer the mouse by analyzing the genetic program that guides its development from an egg” (“In the Ethics” Par. 19). With this information and research, scientists are able to take out and also put in certain genes (“In the Ethics” Par. 20). The medical profession, as well as future patients will benefit from this breakthrough. J. Travis writes, “If similar efforts prove successful with human embryonic stem cells, they could eliminate the use of bone marrow tissue or umbilical cord blood to treat blood disorders such as leukemia” (Travis Par. 16). Many possibilities have developed due to the new research. The potential good that may come of this new idea is grand.
The researching of cloning is far from over. There are many breakthroughs in store for science. As society gets used to the idea of cloning, more progress will be made. Its new and it’s potential is high. With recent research, development of organs, like the lung and the lens of the eye, is very possible (“In the Ethics” Par. 22). Genetic diseases and disorders can be taken out before birth. Also with this breakthrough, people may become closer to genetic perfection, if society is ready. Although scientists have only begun, this is a big step in the direction of cloning.
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