Medical and Technological Advancements in Cloning in The Past Five Years

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Cloning has rapidly become one of the most discussed and controversial topics in biology, especially in the last five years. The ethical and moral dilemmas are continually questioned. In the past five years, the several advances in cloning have become very significant. The advantages discovered in recent cloning advancements have demonstrated that cloning is an area of science that must be pursued.

To discuss the advancements in cloning, it is imperative that we are first clear on what exactly cloning is. According to Learn Genetics, the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, cloning is defined as the “creation of an organism that is an exact genetic copy of another. This means that every single bit of DNA is the same between the two” (“What is Cloning”). There are human clones all across the world today. These are simply identical twins that are created naturally, as opposed to being created in a lab. A scientist can also clone genes for medical purposes. 

Imagine if we could resurrect species such as dinosaurs through the use of cloning? This may actually be something that may come to pass in the near future. A recent article in The New York Times by Gina Kolata discusses the use of cloning to resurrect extinct species. Kolata begins her article by stating, “Until recently, the arrow of natural selection seemed to go only one way. A species could form, then it could flourish, then it could go extinct. And once it was extinct, it could not come back”. She then discusses how advancements in cloning can lead to the resurrection of already extinct species. Scientists are beginning to see a new path. According to George Church, a Harvard Medical School geneticist, “Maybe we can no longer delay death, but we can reverse it” (Kolata). Only one extinct species has been brought back to life, and the animal born lived just a few minutes. It was a Pyrenean ibex, a gigantic creature that lived in the Pyrenees. The last one died in 1999, but the frozen cells of one of the last of the animals were used to create a new one. Personally, I believe this to be a very unethical practice. Morality and ethics should be heavily considered here. The article further discusses a conference in Washington, where Australian scientists discussed an attempt to bring back the Southern gastric brooding frog (became extinct approximately twenty-five years ago). The scientists made embryos, but these embryos died very soon after they were created. As scientists continue to perfect the formula of resurrecting extinct species through the use of cloning, several of these species interest scientists. Some of these include wooly mammoths, a 70,000-year-old horse, and passenger pigeons. The article then discusses the moral and ethical implications of bringing back species from the dead through the use of cloning. In the article, Ross MacPhee, the curator of mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, claimed that “although the science of bringing back extinct species is fascinating, our technological capacity outstrips what it all means. Who will be doing this and what are the regulations? These are getting lost in the hoopla” (Kolata). Extensive analysis of the subject reveals that it truly is a moral dilemma. How far will humans go in the future of cloning? What if the Neo-Nazi population of the world decided to clone themselves and the world was taken over by Neo-Nazis? Although this may seem like a farfetched idea, one can simply not rule out anything when it comes to science. Thousands of years ago, the concept of cloning never occurred to the population of Ancient Egypt, but now it has become a huge part of scientific study and will hopefully continue to do so in the future.

Bringing back extinct species is a complex task, and one that seems very daunting as of today. Cloning requires an intact cell from an extinct species, something that may not exist in several cases. However, several scientists have speculated that there may be frozen cells of extinct species such as wooly mammoths in the Earth’s permafrost. Towards the end of the article, Mr. Greely brings up an important question of justice. In the article, he states (in regard to the Passenger Pigeons), “We are the murderers. We killed them off. Shouldn’t we bring them back? Do we owe duties of justice to nonhuman species? If so, where do we draw the line? How much money do we have to spend? How many species do we have to bring back?” (Kolata) The idea of bringing back extinct species with cloning brings up several moral and ethical questions, questions that will be surely be addressed among scientists throughout the world in the near future. Personally, I believe that advances in cloning should be pursued as it could unlock the key to eliminating several diseases, including cancer. 

Cloning not only involves living creatures but can also involve diseases in food. Food diseases can be eradicated through the use of cloning. According to a journal article titled “Recent Advances in Cloning and Characterization of Disease Resistance Genes in Rice” by Dai, L.Y., Liu, X.L., Xiao, Y.H. and Wang, G.L, it is evident that cloning can come in very handy when it comes to developing resistance genes in rice. Rice production worldwide has several constraints. One of the constraints are rice diseases caused by fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Throughout history, the use of resistant cultivars is considered the most economical and effective method to control rice diseases. 

According to the article “Recent Advances in Cloning and Characterization of Disease Resistance genes in Rice”, a dozen resistance genes against the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe Grisea and the bacterial pathogen Xanthomonas Oryzae pv. Oryzae have been cloned (Dai et al.). This has led to a reduction in rice diseases. However, this is an expensive way of attempting to eliminate rice diseases, but is a very effective one, nonetheless. Hopefully, in the future, several, more economical ways of preventing and eradicating rice diseases will be created and practiced throughout the world. I personally agree with this use of cloning to eliminate food-based diseases simply because it can help save lives.

While researching advances in cloning over the past few years, it became evident that there has been much progress in the regulation of imports to Europe of meat and dairy products from animals bred from clones. In A New York Times article titled, “E.U. Talks Fail on Food Imports from Clone Offspring”, James Kanter discusses such regulation. According to Kanter, these talks collapsed because of disagreements between governments and the European Parliament over how sweeping the rules should be. The failure was greeted with disdain by European consumer groups, but was welcomed by farmers in the United States, Brazil, and several other countries where cloning for food is becoming more common. The Parliament’s negotiators, led by left-wing Dutch lawmaker Kartika Liotard, insisted on tougher rules for imports and said they were sticking to principles. She then cited surveys showing that European public opinion is overwhelmingly against cloning for food. Ms. Liotard then stated that cloning is just “pure animal abuse” (Kanter "E.U. Talks"). Denmark is the only E.U. country that has completely banned cloning for food. However, cloning for food still remains rare or non-existent throughout Europe. The failure of the discussion means that any farmers who want to market dairy or meat product from clones produced in the E.U will need to seek permission under existing regulations from the late 1990s. Many people throughout Europe are still protesting because cloning gives farmers access to animals with leaner meat, enhanced disease resistance and greater milk producing potential. Many farmers agree that cloning is an important technique of the industry and delivers better products to customers. I personally agree with the opinion that cloning in the farming industry is the key to a healthier future, and a reason why advances in cloning should continue to be pursued; however, the cloning of humans loses the meaning of integrity in the fields of medicine and technology.

As time has gone on since cloning mammals first happened in 1996 when Dolly the sheep was born, scientists have begun cloning other animals. According to an article by James Kanter in the New York Times titled, “Scientists Produce”, the world’s first fighting bull was cloned in 2010 in Melgar De Yuso in Spain. The article states that his name is Got, and he lives in a hay manger in a village near the Camino De Santiago, a route for Christian pilgrims. Animal protection groups question the ethics of risky procedures to clone animals. In the same article, Sonja Van Tichelen, the director of Eurogroup For Animals (A Federation of Animal Welfare Organizations) states that, “The underlying motive is clearly profit, with no consideration for the pain and the deaths of many animals as a result of this Frankenstein technique” (Kanter "Scientists Produce"). Mr. Torrent, who was in charge of the operation said that his goal was to “preserve the noblest qualities in fighting bulls” (Kanter "Scientists Produce"). Approximately $40,000 was spent on the equipment used for the cloning. The 20 embryos that were produced as a result of the cloning are still frozen. Mr. Torrent, who conducted the cloning commented that he would not ask for any royalties from researchers who reproduced the procedure. He further stated that he was happy he was contributing to preventing the permanent loss of a species of “high genetic value” (Kanter "Scientists Produce"). Extensive analysis reveals that several technological and medical advancements have been made in the field of cloning in the last five years. The question we must ask ourselves now is how far will scientists go in regard to cloning in the future? I believe that scientists should continue to pursue these advancements as it could unlock the key to a disease-free future. 

Works Cited

“What Is Cloning.” 2013. Learn. Genetics: The University of Utah. 8 April 2013. <http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/tech/cloning/whatiscloning/>

Kolata, Gina. “So, You’re Extinct? Scientists Have Gleam in Eye.” 2013. The New York Times. 8 April 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/science/earth/research-to-bring-back-extinct-frog-points-to-new-path-and-quandaries.html?pagewanted=1&ref=cloning>

Dai, L.Y., Liu, X.L., Xiao, Y.H. and Wang, G. L. “Recent Advances in Cloning and Characterization of Disease Resistance Genes in Rice.” 2009. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology. 8 April 2013.

Kanter, James. “E.U. Talks.” 2011. The New York Times. 8 April 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/business/global/30clone.html?ref=cloning&_r=0>

Kanter, James. “Scientists Produce.” 2010. The New York Times. 8 April 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/business/global/30got.html?ref=cloning>