Reproductive Cloning: From Dolly to New Frontiers

reproductive cloningIn 1996, scientists successfully cloned Dolly the Sheep through a technique known as reproductive cloning, or somatic cell nuclear transplantation (SCNT). The process duplicates an existing organism by transferring the selected organism’s DNA from an existing nucleus to that of a cell whose nucleus has been eliminated. The new cell is chemically stimulated to promote growth, and is then placed inside a host’s uterus. If you’re new to the subject of biology, check out An Introduction to Basic Biology, where instructor Ms. Ley King discusses the topic beginning with basic foundational information to genetics and reproduction.

The Basics of Reproductive Cloning

This highly controversial procedure has yet to create a completely normal, fully functioning, living, breathing replicate, as Dolly the Sheep developed arthritis at age four and was euthanized at the age of six (a naturally born sheep can live from between ten to twelve years). Reproductive cloning has been used with eighteen animal species since Dolly’s birth. Scientists and proponents of reproductive cloning hope to use the process to create animals for experiments, research, organ transplants, and for the repopulation of extinct species.

Opponents of the technique fear the abuse of technology and argue that there are too many variables and that the process is not accurate or reliable enough to undergo human trials. While scientists and the public generally oppose human cloning, many people believe that the mere existence of the process has the potential for mistreatment. Reproductive cloning is a compelling and complex process whose roots can be further understood within the basic tenets of biology. For those searching for a more advanced course about biology and genetics, look into GCSE Biology Course for an in-depth look at the topic. Reproductive cloning is primarily carried out with the help of biotechnology firms. If you’re interested in seeking a career in the biotechnology field, check out Yali Friedman’s Biotechnology Basics course to determine if a job in biotechnology is right for you.

What is Biotechnology?

The biotechnology field specializes in genetics and the use of biological components to create beneficial products. Used in the agricultural, pharmaceutical, and medical industries, biotechnology helps solve problems of disease, and also can assist in resolving food shortages in developing countries. Biotechnology is a rapidly growing field that serves a number of purposes. The field is also responsible for genetic testing, creating genetically modified foods (GMOs), and experimenting with the reproductive cloning of organisms.

The Benefits of Reproductive Cloning

Scientists have argued that reproductive cloning has a number of very valuable uses and benefits. Recently, a number of environmental organizations and activist groups have come out in support of utilizing the process of reproductive cloning to reintroduce extinct animal species that have been wiped out by human overpopulation and hunting. The process could possibly bring back the passenger pigeon, the Mexican grizzly bear, and even the wooly mammoth. Reproductive cloning has also been used to replicate pets for the pet industry, and as recently as 2004, a pet cat was cloned for her owner for $50,000. Proponents of pet cloning argue that the possibility of bringing a former beloved cat or dog back to life brings joy to families, and that it has the power to assist in furthering veterinary knowledge.

Human Cloning

While the general public continues to vocally oppose human cloning, many argue that the process could largely benefit couples that are unable to have their own children. The argument for human cloning is a highly controversial one, and is opposed by many religious faiths and parent groups. Potentially dangerous, as the process has not yet been perfected, human reproductive cloning could result in a number of unknown results, and has therefore not been attempted by any major scientific organizations.

The Arguments Against Reproductive Cloning

Although scientists successfully cloned Dolly the Sheep and a small number of other animals, many of these creatures developed diseases and illnesses possibly as a result of being cloned. Cloning is opposed in numerous religion faiths, and many people believe that sexual reproduction is the only ethical means of creating life. Others believe that while using cloned animals for experimentation is ethically just, the fear of the process being used on humans or for immoral purposes is very real. The possibility for abuse in many instances outweighs the potential benefits of the reproductive cloning process.

The Future and Reproductive Cloning

Just a century ago, the concept of reproductive cloning was limited to science fiction. Dolly the Sheep wasn’t even a tiny blip on scientists’ radar, and the thought of bringing back the wooly mammoth was just a dream. Recent years have brought multiple attempts by scientists and biotechnology firms everywhere to genetically modify food and animals, and the consideration of using the process of reproductive cloning is more commonplace now than ever. The controversies surrounding this captivating and quickly growing field are many, and opponents of reproductive cloning cite concerns regarding health and preservation of both human and animal species. Proponents of the process believe that by utilizing reproductive cloning, we can increase medical knowledge, bring back extinct species, and create a healthier, more stable organism.

The possibilities for mistakes and abuse are many however, and the concept of reproductive cloning remains both controversial and polarizing in many communities. Students of biochemistry and biology have the potential to bring new ideas into the field of biotechnology by furthering their education and increasing public awareness about the pros and cons of reproductive cloning. Noel Herbert’s GCSE Biology offers a basic understanding of the subject, culminating in a final section on genetics. Both interesting and potentially beneficial to our society and culture, reproductive cloning has quickly moved from its place in science fiction and into the realm of scientific reality.