Dolly the sheep or ‘6LL3’, the first mammal cloned from adult somatic cells in 1996. Baaahd idea?
Dolly and her first lamb, Bonnie.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer is the process that produced Dolly. This involves the transfer cell into a de-nucleated ovum, resulting in the two cells fusing and producing an embryo.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is permitted in Australia under a licence issued by the NHMRC Embryo Research Licensing Committee.
Scientific concerns of Somatic cell nuclear transfer
Inserting the DNA of an aged cell arises problems as telomeres of chromosomes are shortened during cell replication. Therefore, as an animal ages, the shorter telomeres get. So, does this mean that the animal is already ‘old’ at birth, increasing the risk of premature aging and age related illness? It is known that Dolly the sheep developed arthritis in 2001 at the age of 5. Was this a result of being born ‘old’? Scientific research in Tokyo has shown that cloned animals, in this case, mice, lived much shorted when compared to mice that were naturally conceived.
From various experiments, very few cloning procedures are successful, with many embryos dying in utero, during the late stages of pregnancy or soon after birth.
It has been suggested that cloning could be applied to save species from extinction. So this would produce a population with identical DNA. This itself rises new problems such as disease risk to the population as they all have identical DNA therefore if the initial individual which produced the clone did not have immunity to a particular disease that is fatal, the whole population is once again at risk of being wiped out as they wont have the required immunity.
Ethical concerns of cloning
Each individual organism that undertake sexual reproduction experience a mix of genetics, producing individuals, not clones. So why would we try and create clones, ‘playing god’ and interfere with nature? If we pick and choose the genetics that we want to see in individuals its possible that we will in fact see a negative resulting shift towards unfavourable genetics that we are unable to predict.
If we apply cloning to humans we need to consider what makes us individuals. What motives do we really have to cloning? Simply, why would we want 2 individual people to be the same?
Consider cloning for the culture of organs perhaps. Creating living humans solely for the purpose of harvesting their organs to overcome rejection from the body. You can’t reject your own organs, right? I cannot imagine how I would feel if I was born simply to supply my clone with the organs that they need to survive.
So with this said, I personally cannot understand the potential benefits of cloning whole organisms. We need to do a lot more research into how we manipulate embryos before we start making farms of cloned animals.