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Cloning – arguments for and against

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  • Pages: 12
  • Word count: 2810
  • Category: Cloning

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… [in 2000] almost 20,000 transplants were done in the USA (11,409 kidneys, 4,166 livers, 2,292 hearts and 942 lungs among them) and according to the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation in the world were transplanted 48,541 hearts and 11,608 lungs, saving 5% of related victims in USA, or a tiny 0,7% worldwide, meaning that transplantation, an anyhow unnatural practice which implants a strangers’ organ into another body, is far away from solving the problem, being the lack of adequate donors the main reason [… , placing many thousands of patients of all kinds throughout the globe in a sort of indefinite and frightening “death row”, circumstance that regrettably causes a number of deaths and serious injuries among hundreds of innocent people forcibly abducted to remove from them transplantable organs in order to supply an increasing unlawful market. (Vasquez)

Successful therapeutic cloning of transplant organs can save lives of many people who otherwise die waiting in line for necessary transplants to be available due to some accident or disease. Also it will, for example, eliminate the demand for illegally obtained transplants such as in those cases when they are taken forcibly from abducted individuals. Therefore, I believe that therapeutic cloning can be justified due to its potential benefits for humanity in the means of creating transplants and treating incurable deceases, although nowadays cloning is widely regarded to be unethical. Historically cloning experiments pertains to cloning of animal embryos, such as mice experiments which date back to late 1970’s, and cattle breeding in late 1980’s.

The experiments represented implantation of one or several clones, divided from one fertilized ovum, into the womb of a surrogate female (Robinson, “Embryo Cloning of Humans”). In recent years, besides the successful cloning of a lamb named Dolly in 1996 and other attempts to clone cattle, scientists from Texas A&M University successfully cloned a cat Cc (short for copy cat) – a later-born identical twin of a calicos cat Rainbow- and meanwhile are trying to clone dog named Missy (Boyce 48). The first publicly announced human cloning was done by Robert J.

Stillman and his team at the George Washington Medical Center in Washington D. C. They took 17 genetically flawed human embryos which would have died within days no matter how they were treated. They were derived from an ovum that had been fertilized by two sperm. This resulted in an extra set of chromosomes which doomed the ovum’s future. None could have developed into a fetus. These ovum were successfully split in October 1994, each producing one or more clones. (Robinson, “Embryo Cloning of Humans”) Nowadays most of the scientific researches are made in the field of therapeutic (medical) cloning.

The leading company in this field is an American Advanced Cell Technology, which experiments date back to 1999, when its scientists released the results of the first successful experiment on embryo cloning: “It was achieved using a cell from a man’s leg and a cow’s egg. The scientists who created the clone see it as a significant step forward in the search for a way of producing human stem cells” (First). “These cells have the potential to become any tissue in the body and scientists believe they will eventually lead to powerful new treatments for a host of edical conditions, including diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease” (“Human Cloning Experiments”).

According to the American Medical Association (AMA) cloning is the production of genetically identical organisms via somatic cell nuclear transfer. ‘Somatic cell nuclear transfer’ refers to the process which the nucleus of a somatic cell of an existing organism is transferred into an oocyte from which the nucleus has been removed. (qtd. in Farnsworth) However, basically cloning can be defined as “a product of one or more individual plants or animals that are genetically identical to another plant or animal”(Robinson, “Embryo Cloning of Humans”).

There are three types of cloning: DNA cloning, Embryo cloning, and Therapeutic cloning. Adult DNA cloning: (a. k. a. cell nuclear replacement, or reproductive cloning) This technique produces a duplicate of an existing animal. It has been used to clone a sheep and other mammals. The DNA from an embryo is removed and replaced with the DNA from an adult animal. Then, the embryo is implanted in a womb and allowed to develop into a new animal (Robinson, “Human Cloning”). The other type of cloning, which was mentioned above, is an embryo cloning.

It is also called artificial twinning, “because it simulates the mechanism by which twins naturally develop. It involves removing one or more cells from an embryo and encouraging the cell to develop into a separate embryo with the same DNA as the original. It has been successfully carried out for years on many species of animals” (Robinson, “Human Cloning”). The third type of cloning, which recently became popular for the controversies in the American society, is therapeutic cloning: [t]his is a procedure that starts off like adult DNA cloning.

However, the stem cells are removed from the embryo with the intent of producing tissue or a whole organ for transplant back into the person, who supplied the DNA. The embryo dies in the process. The goal of therapeutic cloning is to produce a healthy copy of a sick person’s tissue or organ for transplant. (Robinson, “Human Cloning”) Meanwhile, in 2001 the ACT started experiments involving human eggs: the scientists selected from the women, who volunteered to contribute their eggs, only those who were ‘between the ages of 24 and 32 who had at least one child” and collected “cells from individuals to be cloned (the donors)” (Cibelli 46-47).

All the candidates were screened for diseases and checked by psychological and physical tests, which resulted in selecting 12 women. Also the scientists took the samples of “skin biopsies from several other anonymous individuals to isolate cells called fibroblasts for use in the cloning procedure” (Cibelli 47). The fibroblast donors were “people of varying ages who are generally healthy or who have a disorder such as diabetes or spinal cord injury – the kinds of people to benefit from therapeutic cloning” (Cibelli 47).

The ACT scientists described the process of cloning as following: “In the basic nuclear transfer technique, scientists use an extremely fine needle to suck the genetic material from a mature egg. They then inject the nucleus of the donor cell (or sometimes a whole cell) into the enucleated egg and incubate it under special conditions that prompt it to divide and grow” (Cibelli 46). This process turn to be so complicated that the end from the 71 eggs contributed by seven women the scientists could generate only one cloned embryo.

Of the eight eggs we injected with cumulus cells [cells that usually nurture developing eggs in the ovary and that can be found still clinging to eggs after ovulation], two divided to form early embryos of four cells-and one progressed to at least six cells-before growth stopped” (Cibelli 47). Yet the biggest disadvantage of ether therapeutic or any other type of cloning is great number of failure during the experiment: “Even after four years of practice with animal cloning, the failure rate is still overwhelming: 98% of embryos never implant or die off during gestation or soon after birth” (Gibbs 52).

Thus this fact implies the inefficiency of such procedure, which require a lot of recourses to get a satisfactory result; in the case the resources are human eggs. Also, the ACT scientists acknowledge that they accomplished only first seven out of ten steps of the entire therapeutic cloning process; the last three steps involve the division of the egg into roughly 100 cell as well as growing them in the dish to yield stem cells, and finally grow different kinds of cells, like nerve, blood, cardiac and other cells, that later could be injected into donors, who need treatment.

The last step can be realized by the means of exposing the derived stem cells into chemicals or electrical shock. According to Lee Silver the last step can also be accomplished by tricking the embryonic cells into “thinking” they were still present in a very young embryo at a stage where division is supposed to occur without differentiation. This deception is carried out by placing the embryo in an environment overloaded with early embryo molecular signals.

In this environment, an embryo will continue to grow and divide, over and over again, to produce millions upon millions of identical cells that are all frozen – in a development sense – at the same early embryonic stage” and “it then becomes possible to convert this undifferentiated mass into the particular tissue that one desires. Once again, the feat is accomplished with the use of particular molecular signals. (150) First of such experiments were conducted “as early as 1983, Elizabeth J.

Robertson, who is now at Harvard University, demonstrated that stem cells isolated from parthenogenetic mouse embryos could form a variety of tissues, including nerve and muscle” (Cibelli 48). If the ACT scientists accomplish those last stages of the therapeutic cloning procedure with human embryos, they will be able to treat nervous and cardiovascular system diseases, such as damaged spinal cords, brain disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, stroke, epilepsy, as well as diseases involving the blood and bone marrow, diabetes, and, possibly, cancer (Cibelli 48).

Also, therapeutic cloning can “reset the “aging clock” in cloned cells, so that the cells appear younger in some ways than the cells from which they were cloned”, which will “provide “young” cells for an aging population. This fact was determined by the ACT Scientists in 2000 when they discovered “that telomeres – the caps at the ends of chromosomes – from cloned calves are just as long as those from control calves”; however naturally developed “[t]elomeres normally shorten or are damaged as an organism ages” (Cibelli 51).

On the other hand, human cloning, as a reproductive technology, which includes in vitro fertilization and genetic manipulations, was outlawed in many countries of the world, for example in such as France, Germany and Australia (Ali and Woods). However, Canada, Great Britain have no laws to prevent private companies to do medical research in therapeutic cloning, the United States do not have such laws either.

Meanwhile, Britain came to a conclusion that the potential of such research is great, and it would be premature to stop it, without understanding of its possible applications; so the British government “announced in January 2001 that it would now allow scientists to clone human embryos for medical research” on such terms that “[t]he embryos must be destroyed by the time they are 14 days old, before the cells begin to change and form specific parts of the body [of a human baby]” (Ali and Woods).

After the announcement of the success of the Britain’s scientists in cloning Dolly President Bill Clinton banned the use of federal funds for human cloning research in the United States, while “human embryo research banned by the Regan and Bush Presidencies during most of the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s” (Ali and Woods; Robinson, “Embryo Cloning of Humans”). Current President of the United States, George W.

Bush “barred the use of federal funds for research involving stem cells derived from embryos, including those generated using cloning”, as well as his administration “supports a total cloning ban and has endorsed” the legislation, which “would carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of $1 million for anyone who generates cloned human embryos” (Ezzell).

However, National Academy of Science in its report to the US Congress recommended Congressmen to ban the reproductive cloning, but advised to “allow and encourage cloning of embryos for research purposes” (Reaves). Thus, these recommendations spurred further debates between therapeutic cloning supporters and opponents in the Congress. Therapeutic cloning also triggered the debates about ethical aspects of its procedures and possible consequences; most of these debates have the religious basis.

For example, “the official opinion of the Roman Catholic Church is that “every possible act of cloning humans is intrinsically evil” and could never be justified”…. (“Human Cloning: Religious and Ethical Debates”). Also, Nancy Gibbs in her article, “Baby It’s You! And You! And You… “, explains that “[f]or the Roman Catholic Church, the entire questions is one of the world view: whether life is a gift of love or just one more industrial product, a little more valuable than most” (50).

This opinion is based on the belief that “the soul is created at the moment of conception, and that the embryo is worthy of protection” from the experiments, which eventually will result in its distraction (Gibbs 56). Though the supporters of this point of view recognize the fact that “it is fine for God to make clones” or in other words naturally developed identical twins, they totally oppose the idea that “for the scientist to do mechanically what God does naturally is to interfere with his work, and no possible benefit can justify that presumption” (Gibbs 50).

However, other religions for example Jewish and Islamic, do not absolutely oppose cloning considering that it could be justified in some particular circumstances and that there “should be ‘no limits on research because knowledge is bestowed'” on the believers by God (qtd. in “Human Cloning: Religious and Ethical Debates”). On the other hand the main ethical considerations associated with the therapeutic cloning and stem cell research have to do with the source of those cells.

Most of the opponents of therapeutic cloning see it as the means to the ends. Chris MacDonald in his essay “Stem Cells: A Pluripotent Challenge” explains that one of such sources is the “leftovers” from the activities of in vitro fertilization labs; the ethical concern here is the status of such embryos – “the embryo genetically human and potential person – deserves our full respect and protection”, as well as the fact that the embryo donors usually are not adequately informed about the future of the donated fetuses.

The other potential source of embryos for stem cells research is embryos created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which is “the process through which the genetic material from a body cell is transplanted into an egg cell; this allows the creation of an embryo without fertilizing the egg with a sperm” (MacDonald).

The matter of concern in this case is that SCNT is clearly a cloning technique, and with the development and advancements in therapeutic cloning process it can “improve our understanding of the techniques that would be required to attempt human reproductive cloning”, which is a creating clones of the donors of the genetic material (MacDonald). The last source that Chris MacDonald presents “is the source of ES [embryonic stem] cells, namely aborted fetuses”.

This fact arises concerns similar to those of the abortion: “To many, condoing the harvesting of Es cells for research is equivalent to endorsing the abortion that made those cells available” (MacDonald). However, I believe that therapeutic cloning can be justified, because of the following arguments: first of all, a substantial market of human eggs for reproductive purposes had been already established. Big sums of money are being paid to the young women to donate their eggs to the infertile couples to help them to have children through in vitro fertilization procedures.

Scientists believe that some of those women will be eager to donate their eggs for the medical research for reasonable payments (Green 49). Secondly, embryos resulted from the therapeutic cloning procedure have no moral status before 14 days from it’s conception, because during the process [t]he embryo could be genetically reprogrammed to suppress all the parts of the body except for the needed parts, plus a heart and blood circulation. This could ameliorate the problem of the shortage of organs for transplantation. [… ] For without a brain or central nervous system, these organs would not technically qualify as embryos.

Insofar as human body parts like cells and tissues lack moral status, manipulating them is not morally objectionable. (Glannon 163) Finally, therapeutic cloning can not violate the essential of a person’s humanity. Glannon explains this fact, that “it is in virtue of our psychology that we are rational and moral agents who can construct selves that persist through time, and since “at the biological level of cells, tissues, bones, and organs, there are no individuals with rights or interests who could be violated, harmed, or wronged”, “it is because of … dependence of our psychology on our biology that loning these body parts can benefit humans, given our interest in not having to suffer form disease, disability or premature aging and death” (162).

Given all the arguments that I presented in my essay, and in spite of all the disadvantages and opposition therapeutic cloning, I believe that it can be justified, because in my view it resolves the main ethical issue: it does not manipulate with the whole human being, but rather stem cells research is intended for reproduction of certain human organs or tissues necessary for the treatment of various diseases, as well as it does not manipulate human personality.

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