English 165LB: Literature & Biotechnology (W11)

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Cloning- some history and thoughts

Posted by ktrummer on February 2, 2011

// From Hayley & Kellyn

The science behind cloning is not a recent development, so for many, the idea of a cloned animal does not elicit much surprise. Just as in Never Let Me Go somehow we’re all vaguely aware of cloning in recent history and we’ve more or less accepted it as a presence in our future.

As early as 1952 scientists had cloned a tadpole, extracting the nucleus of one of the original tadpole’s cells and inserting into an egg, giving life to “twin” tadpoles. (1)

In 1993 scientists first cloned human embryonic cells. They took an embryonic cell after it divided into two, and then cultured the cells separately, “creating two different embryos with the same genetic information.” This process mimics the natural creation of identical twins. This led to a public outrage over the cloning of humans. But why is it so much worse to clone humans than animals? (2)

In 1996 Dolly the sheep was born, making her “the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, rather than an embryo.” This was a major breakthrough in the world of cloning. She now resides behind glass in a museum, on display.  (3)

In 2007 a man with HIV received blood stem cells through a bone marrow transplant, which thus far has lead him to be HIV free, leading many to believe that he is cured. The stem cells came from a donor with a rare mutation that resists HIV. According to Jerome Zack, an HIV researcher, “Ultimately, the results would need to be reproduced before researchers could know whether this was an option for treating HIV, Zack said. And, practically, finding donors would be a challenge — only one percent of Northern Europeans are known to have this particular mutation.” Is this how the donating program in Never Let Me Go started? (4)

By 2016 scientists believe they will have cloned a wooly mammoth. (5) What in God’s name will we do with a wooly mammoth?!

Perhaps the most pressing question of all regarding cloning asks whether or not we will ever reproductively clone a human. For what purposes would we do so?

-To further the knowledge of science?
-To satiate our curiosity?
-To replace a lost child?
-For organ donation? As imagined in Never Let Me Go

If we do clone a human being, will that human be allowed to actually be “human?” Will they lead a normal life, or will they be brought into the world without their consent, subject to endless proddings and pokings to further science?

http://humancloningfoundation.blogspot.com/

This is a blog that represents pro-cloning viewpoints. One blogger’s response to people’s resistance of cloning- “It’s no wonder their first digs at this biotechnology come from science fiction and extremists.”

LINKS:

(1) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862459,00.html

(2) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,979522,00.html

(3) http://www.animalresearch.info/en/medical/timeline/Dolly

(4) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40666443/ns/health-aids/

(5) http://www.pcworld.com/article/216872/scientists_to_clone_woolly_mammoth_in_five_years.html

-Hayley and Kellyn

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5 Responses to “Cloning- some history and thoughts”

  1. Mina Joo said

    This is a very interesting issue. It’s amazing to see how such an idea has progressed and developed over the years, to the point where scientists were able to clone an adult mammal cell.

    There’s many sides and issues to cloning; there are so many different levels of understanding and different opinions about it. After looking at some of these sides, I’m not quite sure where I stand on the issue. However, I do agree with you that the idea of cloning the mammoth does seem pretty dubious.

    I think what I want to see is scientists and people being careful and making careful choices. I don’t think anyone would ever want to see a situation such as the one in Never Let Me Go actually becoming reality. But once the waves start rolling in that way, it is hard to stop it or even take a step back and see what’s wrong with the picture. Even though the realization of human cloning can have benefits, there could be negative consequences as well.

  2. Dana Reinhart said

    One of my favorite comic book series, Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, deals with the theoretical repercussions of human cloning. In the series, a catastrophic plague kills virtually every living thing with a Y chromosome, save for one young man and his pet monkey. This plague is attributed to the birth of a human clone. One scientist claims that the clone’s birth causes the death of all men because it violates the natural order of things. Another scientist claims that the “gendercide” is an act Nature–the instant humans achieve the ability to reproduce asexually, males became evolutionarily irrelevant and are therefore rendered extinct:

    https://picasaweb.google.com/109392279528866466087/YTheLastMan?authkey=Gv1sRgCL7v5OWsg4fIdw&feat=directlink

    I think this is pretty relevant to the discussion we have been having in class about the difference between letting Nature take its course and directing evolution with technology. In the case of the comic, I feel like the second scientist is trying to redirect his guilt over his role in bringing about the plague by presenting it as an act of Nature. However, if he hadn’t attempted to clone a human, the plague would never have happened. In this case, I think that the author is arguing against the idea of cloning–irrespective of whether the clone itself or Nature caused the plague, human cloning led to a major catastrophe. Also, throughout the series, Vaughan makes reference to how “cloning is crap,” how the copied organisms, be they human or monkey, are inherently inferior to the original.

    I’m struggling to sum up 60 issues of a brilliantly written comic in a single blog post, so please let me know if you need some more explanation of what I’m trying to say! Also, I believe that DC Comics has the first issue of the series for free download from their website if you are interested in reading it.

    • Joseph said

      Successful Human cloning has been a fact since 1956! Live specimens were created in a Scandinavian laboratory in a joint venture with the US. in a race with the Germans and Russians to create a perfect soldier, and to create replacement tissue for the powerful, and certain individuals with special skills/traits. This was accomplished by using certain sex organs, but because of the rapid aging problem and short term viability issue, these experiments were put off until better sources of DNA could be developed/researched! Certain organs were kept viable for transplant and experimentation. Through these it was discovered, in the early 70’s, how to create a human clone that had a much longer life span, but because of the outcry against such experimentation and the fact that they were exact copies of the host donor (down to the fingerprints) they were ordered destroyed. Because they were living thinking, feeling, human beings, this was unconscionable to certain of those involved with their creation, and so three were helped to escape, but are still hunted to this day! One of whom was slaughtered in 1984! Their creation was deemed top secret for 25 Yrs., and is why you could only learn of such in comic books and the like, being leaked as science fiction, like so many other such things, to minimize culture shock! Yours in truth, JRPJR

  3. Taylor Marks said

    When we first starting going over cloning in class discussion the first thing that came to mind was the possible cloning of a wooly mammoth. After researching the progress of the behemoth’s cloning I found out that attempts to recreate the mammoth was still in motion. It turns out that the useless wooly mammoth DNA that withered from frost damage may not be so useless. Japanese scientist Riken has found a way to use dead DNA from frozen mice to make clones which created high expectations for the subsequent experiment; the wooly mammoth.

    http://singularityhub.com/2011/01/19/japanese-scientist-wants-to-clone-a-woolly-mammoth-in-the-next-five-years/

    The resurrection of this extinct animal would become the mile-stone in cloning capabilities. Supposedly, scientist want to go through with the cloning so they can run test on the animal and better understand the Pleistocene period, but I would just guess that these scientist are aiming for prestige and are not taking into account the ethics behind cloning such an animal. Once this animal is cloned, if ever, does humanity have the right to bring an animal back from extinction and what would we gain from the mammoth’s existence? So my main question is why waste so much effort on a project that would reap so little benefits?

    • Amber Estes said

      You pose many thought provoking questions. I think you are correct in posing the question as an inevitable slippery slope. How far is too far? The whole notion of playing God also comes to mind. To what end will scientists be content if there is the capability to bring an extinct species back to life? My personal stance would be that scientists are opening a proverbial Pandora’s Box in which you cannot possible close the lid once it has been opened. I see how there can be many benefits to studying live creatures but they would not be in their natural environment. This scientific breakthrough would allow for us to completely dissolve the process of extinction. But I still keep going back to the Jurassic Park movies. Present day humans should not walk with dinosaurs or woolly mammoths. Is it wrong to air on the side of caution? Would the benefits significantly outweigh the inherent risk associated with tampering with nature?

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