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Biological Ethics: Cloning Revisited

Dateline: 12/11/97

In How do you spell breakthrough? D-O-L-L-Y!, I discussed cloning. Much has transpired since this initial article, but challenging assumptions and ethical implications of the cloning process remain. Let's review how scientists created a clone of an adult mammal, aptly named Dolly.

Simply put, scientists extracted nuclei from the udder cells of an adult sheep and inserted the nuclei into ova from which the original nuclei had been removed. Cell nuclei contain deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), aka, the basic "building blocks" of life through which genetic information is passed. DNA allows the transmission of characteristics such as your grandmother's distinct nose. When the nuclei were transferred to the ova, the "adult" nuclei acted as if they were "baby" nuclei and began to divide. The scientists then implanted the dividing egg into the "mother" who had produced the original egg and a few months later, an exact genetic copy-- a clone -- was born!

This was fascinating for two reasons: (1) it was the first time an adult mammal had been cloned, and (2) it raises the possibility that we may one day be able to clone humans. Obviously, this raises many ethical issues. For example:

Would it be ethical to clone a human without a brain for use in organ transplants?

Would it be ethical to use clones for scientific research?

These questions raise issues that both the scientific community and the public must address if the technology for cloning humans becomes feasible. What do you think? Should we clone humans? More importantly, what are the boundaries for the "practice" of science and the "implications" of science? Come on over to the Biology Forum and share your thoughts, opinions and feelings. Untl next time...

For additional information see:

CloningFrom About.com
Information on human cloning, nuclear transfer, a cloning time line and more.

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