Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Cloning: Ethical atrocity or potential saviour!?

Agent_Smith2

The dangers of cloning…

Imagine one day seeing dinosaurs running around, a real life Jurassic park!

This is, of course, merely a dream, requiring an intense amount of luck to become reality, as ideal conditions see enough usable DNA last for only 1 million years after death, putting the last known dinosaur, a triceratops, a lazy 64 million years from having enough intact DNA.

Cloning has many ethical pitfalls, but it has many uses and advantages that I believe outweigh the ethical issues.

THE HOW’S OF CLONING:

cloning2

The basic cloning process

Before I get to the why’s and why not’s of cloning, how does it work exactly? Essentially an unfertilized egg has its nucleus removed and is replaced with a somatic cell (a non-reproductive cell e.g. a skin cell) from a donor organism. The newly created embryo is then zapped with electricity to start cell multiplication and implanted into a surrogate mother of the same or similar species. If successful, the embryo will be an identical genetic replica of the donor.

THE ETHICS:

Cloning is hugely controversial, not least which with religious sects. First, most religions in general, hold the sanctity of life in high reverence, and as cloning allows scientists to create and choose life, there are fears we are dangerously close to ‘playing god’, and with the moment of conception signifying the beginning of life and that bears protecting, it is quite a problem that requires some history and explanation.

Dolly the sheep

Dolly – the first cloning success story

Cloning is quite a fickle process similar to IVF in that cloning can have quite a low success rate. A study of a cow cloning program producing a success rate of just 5.4% of calves born, which is worryingly low when 24.7% of the tests resulted in a pregnancy. This violation of the sanctity of life is also shown in the case of Dolly the first successful clone, the only success out of 277 tests. This leads to fears that we are dangerously close to ‘playing god’

Second on the ethics side of things, is a more general concern of the health of cloned organisms. Cloned offspring have a high rate of unusually large bodies and therefore organs, this side effect is known as LOS or ‘large organ syndrome’ and can have detrimental effects on well-being of life and life expectancy of clones, due to abnormal blood-flow and breathing problems.

THE BENEFITS:

ibex

The recently extinct Pyrenean Ibex – first successful extinct clone, unfortunately only unextinct for 10 minutes

If you remove the ethical problem I believe cloning (human and animal) has huge benefits. First, cloning has the ability to both prop up populations of critically endangered animals and bring back extinct species of animals that only recently died out, the only downside coming in the form of dangerously low genetic diversity, making them easy targets for diseases, which is really the least of their problems when considering that these species would already have low or no genetic diversity anyway.

Secondly, it gives infertile and homosexual couples the opportunity to have their own biological children, a major step to improving the quality of life for these 2 demographics, there are however, concerns that human cloning could assist criminals in areas such as donating organs and having clones conduct crime on their behalf. Another worry of human cloning is that scientists could start selecting candidates based upon desired traits and genes.

Cloning may carry many ethical and societal issues but if safer, more effective methods could be found and the industry toughly regulated, then cloning could have major benefits for humans and animals.


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One comment on “Cloning: Ethical atrocity or potential saviour!?

  1. Pingback: Illumination. | Deakin Communicating Science 2016

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This entry was posted on April 12, 2016 by in Burwood - Wednesday 12pm, Uncategorized.

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